Retaliatory Eviction: A Landlord’s Worst Nightmare!

Eviction Notice

Any California landlord should know that landlord-tenant law is very protective of tenants in many ways. One of these is a codified law that specifically states that landlords are not allowed to evict a tenant or increase their rent in retaliation for the tenant exercising his/her legal rights (California Civil Code Section 1942.5 prohibits a landlord from moving forward with an eviction or rent increase if the eviction or rent increase is based on a tenant’s exercise of protected tenant rights).

This article will address 1) what retaliatory eviction is and 2) how landlords can protect themselves from being accused of retaliatory eviction.

 

What is retaliatory eviction?

Evictions are called “retaliatory” whenever a landlord tries to evict a tenant or increase the monthly rent because the tenant has exercised any of the following legal rights (from California Civil Code Section 1942.5):

  • Using the repair and deduct remedy, or telling the landlord that the tenant will use the repair and deduct remedy
  • Complaining about the condition of the rental unit to the landlord, or to an appropriate public agency after giving the landlord notice
  • Filing a lawsuit or beginning arbitration based on the condition of the rental unit
  • Cause an appropriate public agency to inspect the rental unit or to issue a citation to the landlord

This basically means that if a landlord moves forward with a rent increase, 30-day, or 60-day notice to vacate the premises because the tenant complained about the condition of the property, the landlord is in violation of California Law.

Now, landlords will often not disclose to the tenant that what the actual reason for the eviction or rent increase is. However, California law is one step ahead and presumes that the eviction is a retaliatory eviction if the eviction or rent increase occurs within 6 months of the tenant exercising his/her rights.

 

How to protect yourself from retaliatory eviction?

…the law presumes that the eviction or rent increase is retaliatory, but this presumption can be challenged

All this does not mean that landlords are prohibited from evicting a tenant for valid reasons within 6 months of the tenant exercising his/her rights. As mentioned above, the law presumes that the eviction or rent increase is retaliatory, but this presumption can be challenged.

To recap, all a tenant has to show is that he/she exercised his/her tenant rights and that within 6 months, the landlord increased rent or tried to evict him/her and the law presumes it is retaliatory eviction. It is now up to the landlord to prove that the rent increase or eviction was not because of the exercise of tenant rights.

For a landlord to protect him/herself from being accused of retaliatory eviction, the landlord must make sure all documentation shows a legitimate reason for eviction. For example, if the landlord is evicting the tenant because the landlord is planning to sell the property, make sure any communication to the tenant details this reason. If the landlord is increasing rent because property taxes have increased, make sure this reason is documented in a letter to the tenant.

Accordingly, as a landlord, make sure that any rent increase or eviction is documented correctly. As always, consult an attorney for your specific situation.


Contact the author...

Eric Ching

Eric Ching, Esq. - Real Estate Attorney

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  19 comments for “Retaliatory Eviction: A Landlord’s Worst Nightmare!

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  2. February 27, 2016 at 3:01 pm

    In Ohio, Ohio Revised Code Section 5321 governs the reploitnshias between landlords and tenants. That act is broken down into 18 or 19 different subsections, but the important one that we are dealing with is the 16th subsection, R.C. 5321.16 which governs security deposits in residential rental housing. It states that if the tenant gives written notice of his forwarding address before moving out and if the landlord wrongfully withholds any portion of the security deposit for more than 30 days then the tenant (or in your case, the tenant’s estate) can sue for double the wrongfully withheld portion of the deposit and reasonable attorneys fees.If the tenant signed a one year lease and then died midway through the term then the tenant’s estate will be liable for any unpaid rent or physical damages beyond normal wear and tear. If the tenant was on a month to month lease agreement, then the tenant (or his estate) can terminate such an agreement by giving 30 days notice of an intent to vacate under R.C. 5321.17. But the security deposit can be used to pay for unpaid rent or damages beyond normal wear and tear. If there is still some of the security deposit left over after the unpaid rent (if any) is paid and after damages beyond normal wear and tear (if any) are repaired, then the landlord does have to return the remainder of the security deposit regardless of whether or not the lease agreement terminated early.

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