Selecting an eviction lawyer in California

When there are problematic tenants in a rental unit, it is a thorn in the side of landlords and property managers, and it can be debilitating, financially and emotionally, making it imperative you have proper counsel on your side.

As an undergrad student at the University of Michigan, our founding attorney Daniel Bornstein contemplated the career path of psychology because of his ease with language and desire to help people. What he found is that while psychologists may spend years or decades helping the same patient, a California eviction lawyer can provide an instant transformation in a landlord’s mental health when a troublesome tenant is successfully transitioned out of the unit.

Generally speaking, there are two types of California eviction lawyers. One that gets jazzed up by a dispute and the other is a practitioner who wants to bring the matter to an expeditious end. We liken it to a game of chess.

Some lawyers injected in an unlawful detainer (eviction) action want to play a 5-hour chess game. Don’t get us wrong - we will do whatever it takes to achieve the goals of rental housing providers and the professionals who serve them, but our strong preference is to play a 5-minute chess game. We don’t have the attention span for a protracted dispute that drags on for months.


“Primum non nocere,” the Latin translation for “first, do no harm.”

While there are no medical doctors in our firm, we nonetheless take the Hippocratic Oath of doing no harm to our clients. The goal of a California eviction attorney should never be to elongate a matter, but to resolve it as quickly and as inexpensively as possible, taking into account time, risk, and attorneys’ fees.


As an attorney, Daniel is both aggressive and prudent, two qualities that benefit his clients immensely. He once explained to me that most Tenant / Landlord legal matters are like a “knot.” The harder each side tries to win the less likely the “knot” is untangled – once one of the parties stops trying to win, and starts trying to untangle themselves from the matter, it is more likely to quickly and efficiently come to a reasonable conclusion.

View more testimonials »


Landlord-tenant conflicts are oftentimes emotionally charged, requiring a special skill set to see past the horizon of the dispute and be elevated beyond the emotional fray. This is a competency that the California eviction lawyers at Bornstein Law have honed for the better part of three decades, and we’ve seen it all.


Not for the faint of heart

When there is crime, addiction, and mental illness in society, it will inevitably spill into rental units. Bornstein Law has become comfortable responding to acts such as drug dealing, arson, violence, and all manner of depraved behavior.

In many instances, this behavior is so egregious that it is not “curable,” meaning the tenant is not afforded the opportunity to remedy the situation. They simply need to move out after being served a properly prepared 3-Day Notice to Quit.


Questions to ask when interviewing an eviction lawyer in the San Francisco Bay Area

Since the law has become very specialized, the first and foremost inquiry is whether the attorney practices landlord-tenant law on a daily basis. When someone tells you that they are a real estate lawyer, that really tells you nothing.

The second question to ask is whether they manage landlord-tenant disputes in the area where your property is located. When we first started our legal careers, there were only three ordinances relating to rent and eviction controls in the Bay Area, namely San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley.

Now there are seventeen, with even more locales eying stricter tenant protections. There are county and state laws that overlay local ordinances, making this a very complicated area of law to practice. A California eviction lawyer should understand the nuances of local jurisdictions.

Thirdly, what are the economics of the landlord-tenant dispute?

When a matter is escalated to a trial, it can cost $20K or more to be represented in the courtroom. As skillful negotiators, our strong preference is to settle the matter out of court in order to accomplish the goal of effectuating a vacancy.

More on tenant surrender of possession agreements →


Parting thoughts

Now is not the time to download stale, outdated notices off of the Internet or hire a cousin who happens to be an attorney. If he or she has no working knowledge of landlord-tenant law, they may be more dangerous than you. Better for housing providers and real estate professionals to be tethered to a firm that is intimately familiar with the myriad of laws germane to housing providers and a proven track record of helping landlords and their agents power through their real estate challenges.


With offices in San Francisco and Oakland, Daniel Bornstein is the foremost practitioner in the complicated arena of California landlord-tenant law. Renowned for his educational talks to rental housing providers and the professionals who serve them, he is also an expert witness and the broker of record for Bay Property Group, a property management company with over 800 rents under management.

When shopping for a California eviction lawyer, we welcome potential clients to get second or third opinions on a thorny legal matter. For informed advice, we can jump on a phone call to give you a good, 360-degree assessment on what it takes to resolve a landlord-tenant dispute.