Responding to the complaint. As a tenant, if you are served with a Summons — Unlawful Detainer and complaint concerning an eviction, you must respond to the summons. You may use Judicial Council Answer form — Unlawful Detainer, to respond and must file the answer form with the local court that issued the summons. You must also pay a filing fee when filing the answer form, unless you qualify for a fee waiver.
If there is more than one tenant, or defendant, listed in the complaint, each tenant must respond separately or a default judgment may be entered against the tenants who do not file an answer. Two tenants can share one answer form, but each must sign the answer form individually and pay a separate filing fee. If you are filing the answer for yourself only, put your name on line 1 of the answer form. If you are filing the answer for yourself and another tenant named in the complaint, put both your names on line 1.
Each tenant named in the complaint has five days after the summons is served to file an answer form at the court that issued the summons. (The five-day response time includes Saturdays and Sundays, but excludes all judicial holidays. If the last day for filing a response is a Saturday or Sunday, the tenant has until close of business on the next court day to file a response.)
A letter or phone call does not serve as a response. The answer must be on the proper legal form (Answer - Unlawful Detainer) in order for the court to hear the case.
If an answer is not filed on time, the tenant may lose the case, be evicted, and have his or her wages, money, and property taken by the landlord without further warning from the court.
The tenant’s time to respond to a complaint for unlawful detainer is not affected by the tenant's quitting of the leased premises.
Serving the answer and completing a proof of service form: Before you file your answer with the court, you first have to make sure that a copy of the answer is served on the landlord of the property. This means that a copy of the answer along with a proof of service form must be given to the attorney for the landlord or, if the landlord is not represented by an attorney, to the landlord. It can be served by mail or hand delivered, but only by a person who is at least 18 years of age and is not a plaintiff or defendant in the case.
A Proof of Service form is used to show the court that a copy of your answer was sent to the other party in the case before you filed the original answer. It does not have to be received by the other party before you file; it must only be put in the mail. The Proof of Service must be signed by a person over 18 who is not a party to the case. This means that neither you, nor any other tenant in the case, can sign the Proof of Service form. You can obtain a Proof of Service form from your local superior court or from books containing general legal forms available from legal publishers or bookstores.