Tenants in an Unlawful Detainer action need to file an answer if they want to have a chance to go to court. YOU HAVE 5 DAYS from the time of receiving the court papers to answer (starting the next day, i.e. if you got the papers Friday, Saturday is day 1, and you have until the end of the day Wednesday to file an answer). Your answer should be your argument against your landlord's reasons for evicting you. (BE AWARE that if you say you were witholding rent because the landlord needed to make repairs, or that you offered the landlord the full amount of the rent and he didn't accept it, the judge may rule in your favor, but this often means you will have to pay the full amount of the rent in exchange for the landlord making those repairs or allowing you to stay)
IF THERE IS ALREADY A DEFAULT JUDGMENT in place because you didn't answer due to: Not being served, Not knowing you were supposed to answer, Not understanding your time frame to answer, OR your answer was rejected by the clerks; you may be able to get the judgment set aside for a chance to go to court. You MUST prove that you have a good excuse for not answering in the time that you should have and a good reason to set aside the judgment. This procedure will involve an ex-parte court date in regards to the set aside, and if your set aside is granted, a second court date to determine whether or not you should be evicted.
IF YOU HAVE RECEIVED A SHERIFF'S LOCKOUT NOTICE: you need to file your papers at least 2 days before the lockout to have a hearing before the lockout. If you have the hearing on the day of the lockout, you may still be able to have a chance to argue your side in court, you just need to be prepared to be locked out and then let back in.
THERE IS NO GUARANTEE YOU WILL NOT BE LOCKED OUT ON THE DATE GIVEN ON THE NOTICE. If you have been served with a sheriff's notice, you need to be prepared to be locked out on that date because if you lose the case, the lockout will proceed as planned.
For Samples, Instructions, and Information, visit The Kern County Courts Website.