State law may regulate the extent a landlord may be able to go to in order to collect monies owed to them by a delinquent tenant, but there are some good places to start if you're having to collect from unpaid rent.
The eviction process is one of the ways to begin the process of receiving your money, or at least getting the tenant out so that you may fill the unit with someone that is more likely to pay what they owe. State laws differ on how many days you may give the tenant, so be sure to check those, but California law states that the tenant has three days to pay you. If they do not pay, you can tell them to leave. If they refuse to leave, that is when you must go to the courts and begin the process that may end in the sheriff tossing them out. A security deposit is the first step to recovering any rent that they owe to you. How much you're keeping must be put down in writing and you may not keep more than he or she owes.
There is, of course, always the possibility that the tenant will owe more than they have given you in the deposit. Small claims court is a good avenue to take if the claim is under a certain amount. Once you've gone through this process, make sure to follow all legal means to obtain payment. While you may be allowed to garnish wages to receive payment, you are not allowed to harass them.
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