In April, Juan Carlos Cruz Mora received an eviction notice from his landlord that alleged he caused property damage and dirty, unsafe living conditions in the Sacramento suburb duplex he had called home for the last 10 years. He had only five days to file a response in court.
Mora, who blamed his landlord for those issues, tried to file an answer with the court himself but feared a mistake could land him, his wife, and his two young children on the street. He said he paid a lawyer $1,000 to help.
“With one word I could lose the case,” he said in Spanish.
Thousands of California tenants lose their homes every year because they fail to submit that initial answer in court. Failing to check the right box or file a timely response could, indeed, trigger a default judgment against them.
A group of tenant advocates and attorneys today launched a tool they hope will change that.