If the court decides in favor of the tenant, the tenant will not have to move, and the landlord may be ordered to pay the tenant’s court costs (for example, filing fees) and the tenant’s attorney’s fees. However, the tenant will have to pay any rent that the court orders.
If the landlord wins, the tenant will have to move. In addition, the court may order the tenant to pay the landlord’s court costs and attorney’s fees, and any proven damages, such as overdue rent or the cost of repairs if the tenant damaged the premises.
It is possible, but rare, for a losing tenant to convince the court to allow the tenant to remain in the rental unit. This is called relief from forfeiture of the tenancy. The tenant must convince the court of two things in order to obtain relief from forfeiture: that the eviction would cause the tenant severe hardship, and that the tenant is able to pay all of the rent that is due or that the tenant will fully comply with the lease or rental agreement.320
A tenant can obtain relief from forfeiture of a lease or a rental agreement, even if the tenancy has terminated (ended), so long as possession of the unit has not been turned over to the landlord. A tenant seeking relief from forfeiture (or the tenant’s attorney) must apply for relief immediately after the court issues its judgment in the unlawful detainer lawsuit.321
A tenant who loses an unlawful detainer lawsuit may appeal the judgment if the tenant believes that the judge mistakenly decided a legal issue in the case. However, the tenant will have to move before the appeal is heard, unless the tenant obtains a stay of enforcement of the judgment or relief from forfeiture (described immediately above). The court will not grant the tenant’s request for a stay of enforcement unless the court finds that the tenant or the tenant’s family will suffer extreme hardship, and that the landlord will not suffer irreparable harm. If the court grants the request for a stay of enforcement, it will order the tenant to make rent payments to the court in the amount ordered by the court.322
320 Code of Civil Procedure Section 1179.
321 California Practice Guide, Landlord-Tenant, Paragraph 9:444-9:445.1(Rutter Group 2009). The tenant’s written petition must be served on the landlord at least five days before the date of the hearing on the request for relief. If the tenant does not have an attorney, the tenant may orally apply to the court for relief, if the landlord either is present in court or has been given proper notice. The court also may order relief from forfeiture on its own motion. The court may order relief from forfeiture only on condition that the tenant pay all of the rent due (or fully comply with the lease or rental agreement). (Code of Civil Procedure Section 1179).
322 Code of Civil Procedure Section 1176.