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settling out of court

This page tells you about:

  1. Reasons to settle
  2. Mediation
  3. Conditional settlement
  4. What to do if you settle the case
  1. Why should I try to settle out of court?

    You don’t have to let the court decide the case just because someone filed an Unlawful Detainer action. You have the right to settle the case out of court. Even if you think you have a strong case or defense, there are a lot of good reasons to settle out of court:
    • Save money:
      If you settle early, you won’t have to pay any more court or lawyer fees.
    • Save time:
      If you settle, your dispute will be over much faster than a trial.
    • Don’t take off from work:
      If you settle early you won’t have to take time off from work to go to trial.
    • Don’t pay the other side’s costs and fees:
      If you settle, you can’t lose the case. The judge can’t order you to pay the other side’s court costs or lawyer fees.
    • Keep renting:
      It can be very hard to rent again if you have an Unlawful Detainer judgment against you. Many landlords check court records to find out if a tenant had an Unlawful Detainer judgment against him or her.
    • Protect your credit rating:
      A judgment against you can ruin your credit rating.
  2. Can I use mediation to settle?

    If you and the other party can’t agree on your own, you can try mediation. Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) can help you reach a settlement. There are many free or low cost mediation services to help you solve your case out of court. Watch a video about how mediation can help you on our Self-Help Videos web page video icon.

    Mediation programs:
    • Office of Human Relations: This is a County program. (408) 299-2206 
    • Project Sentinel: This is a city program. In Sunnyvale, Milpitas, Gilroy, and Santa Clara. (408) 720-9888 
    • Los Altos Mediation Program: (650) 949-5267 
    • Santa Clara County Bar Association: This is a service that helps you find a lawyer. (408) 971-6822 
    • Palo Alto Mediation Program: (650) 856-4062 
    • Pro Bono Project (mostly family law issues): (408) 998-5298 
    • Campbell Rent Mediation: (408) 243-8565
    • Mountain View Mediation Program: (650) 960-0495 
    • Legal Aid Society: (408) 283-1540 

    Look in the phone book under "Mediator" to find more mediators.

  3. Conditional settlement:

    Sometimes the defendant agrees to leave, but needs time to find a new place. If this is your case, you can enter a “conditional settlement”. This is also called a “stipulation for entry of judgment”.

    For this kind of settlement, you must:
    • Agree on a date for the defendant to leave:
      This can be a week or a few months.
    • Agree to the terms:
      You must agree on how much money the defendant must pay to stay the extra time. You also have to agree on when it’s due.
    • Agree on the conditions:
      You must agree that the landlord will dismiss the case if the defendant pays the landlord and leaves on the due date. Both sides pay their own costs.

      But, if the defendant pays late or doesn’t leave on time, the landlord can get a judgment. The landlord just has to file the stipulation with a sworn declaration. The declaration must prove that the defendant broke the agreement.

    • Optional terms:
      You don’t have to agree on how much back rent or other damages are due. You can solve this later. Or, file a different legal action
  4. What do I do if we reach a settlement?
    • Put it in writing, get it signed, and keep a copy:

      It’s important to put your agreement in writing. This way you won’t fight over the terms later on. Both sides should sign the agreement. Make sure everyone has a copy.

    • Tell the court right away:

      When you settle, the landlord has to give the court notice right away. The notice must be in writing.

      If you’re about to have a hearing, conference, or trial, the landlord must tell the court about the settlement in person. If the tenant has more than 45 days to do what the agreement asks, the notice should say what date the landlord will dismiss the action.
    • Dismiss the action:

      If the settlement doesn’t have conditions, the landlord has 45 days to dismiss the action.

      If the settlement has conditions, you will have a dismissal review about 45 days after the dismissal date on the notice. If the landlord does not dismiss the action by then, the Court will dismiss it at the review. The court will not dismiss the action if the landlord gives the court a good reason not to.

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