Is landlord retaliation acceptable? In California, it is against the law for a landlord to retaliate against a tenant for exercising their legal rights. This includes tenants who have complained to a government agency about the condition of the property, or who have joined or formed a tenant’s union.
If a landlord does take illegal action against a tenant, the tenant may sue the lessor and recover damages. Retaliatory acts can include retaliatory eviction, violating a tenant’s legal rights by means of a retaliatory rent increase (requiring the tenant to pay rent in a greater amount), willingly exercising decreased services, or engaging in a retaliatory eviction. The landlord must respect a complaint, including an oral complaint, to a building inspector or to the lessor themself.
Landlord retaliation is a serious problem in California. Every year, thousands of renters are evicted from their homes or have their rent increased because they have peaceably exercised their rights according to their rental agreement. Landlord-tenant law prohibits the lessor’s conduct of filing a civil action in order to recover possession after a tenant’s exercise of his or her rights. Tenants oftentimes face retaliatory eviction, and these retaliatory eviction cases can result in substantial monetary awards in a lawsuit or arbitration award. These include reasonable attorney fees and punitive damages when the tenant produces evidence that there was no valid reason for the retaliatory eviction.
The law prohibiting retaliation is Civil Code section 1942.5.
This article is designed to help tenants understand their rights under the law and to fight back against landlord retaliation if they are faced with a civil action.
What is Landlord Retaliation?
What constitutes retaliation from a landlord? What is retaliatory eviction?
The kinds of acts covered by California law include terminating a tenancy or filing an eviction lawsuit. It can include imposing a condition relating to the premises when the lessor retaliates against a tenant who has peaceably exercised the tenant’s legal rights in good faith. Examples include an increase in rent, a decrease in services, or locking the laundry room. A decrease in services is defined as any way in which a tenant is determined adversely to be affected. If you file with an appropriate agency about the unit, you are protected.
An increase in rent is a violation of Civil Code section 1942.5. A rent increase is presumptively retaliatory. If a tenant can produce evidence of a good faith oral complaint or a written complaint directed towards the landlord or an appropriate agency (such as a building inspector), the tenant can succeed in a lawsuit against his landlord. Some cities, such as San Francisco, have stricter requirementsconcerning a lessees association. You can contact code enforcement in San Francisco by clicking here.
How Do I Go About Producing Evidence?
Producing evidence can be challenging in such a case, which is why that the state statutes provide a burden-shifting approach. If the tenant can show that the tenant has made a good faith complaint to a rental authority or a good faith complaint to their landlord, then any retaliatory acts, such as a decrease in services or a rent increase is presumed to be a retaliatory act; the burden is on the landlord to show a valid reason for such action.
If the tenant’s rights are violated, then a tenant can recover punitive damages in a judicial proceeding, including recovery of attorney’s fees and court costs. When the party requests attorney’s fees, they are entitled to receive them as a legal right if they can demonstrate in a judicial proceeding that the landlord had a retaliatory motive and took such action when the tenant made an oral complaint, a written complaint, or a complaint to an appropriate agency, such as a building inspector. If a judicial or arbitration proceeding involving the parties is determined adversely to the landlord, then the tenant can recover punitive damages.
What Are Acts of Retaliation?
An act of retaliation is any act by the landlord taken against a tenant because the tenant has exercised their legal rights. California state law presumes retaliation if the lessor acts in these types of negative ways within a 180 days after the tenant has complained about the premises–or made a tenant’s complaint to an appropriate agency.
This can be a written complaint or an oral complaint. This includes tenants who have made a good faith complaint to a government agency about the condition of the property, or who have joined or formed a lawfully organized tenant’s union.
The most common form of retaliation is an eviction, but landlords may also try to increase the rent, decrease services, or harass the tenant. An eviction can be defended. A retaliatory eviction can result in a successful affirmative defense against such an eviction case or increase rent action, and this will prevent eviction or increase rent action from being successful. Landlords cannot in good faith proceed with an eviction in violation of Civil Code section 1942.5.
A landlord’s retaliation is against California law. They cannot raise your rent, evict you, or decrease services if the tenant complains to a government agency about the lessor or takes part in a tenant organization advocating lessees’ rights in obtaining correction of the condition relating to the premises.
Forms of Retaliation
There are many forms of retaliation, but some of the most common include:
● Decreasing services or increase rent;
● Threats or intimidation;
● Refusing to renew a lease or scheming to get you to quit involuntarily;
It is important to note that in order for an act to be considered retaliation, there does not need to be a formal complaint filed— simply asking for repairs or expressing concern about possible code violations can trigger landlord retaliation.
Consequences of Retaliation In California
In California, victims of retaliation can take legal action against their landlords. The penalties for violating anti-retaliation laws are severe, and can include:
1) Reimbursement for any moving costs incurred as a result of the illegal action;
2) Compensation for any damages suffered as a result of the illegal action;
3) A fine of up to $1,000; and/or
A lessor retaliates when a lessee or lessees association complains about the conditions relating to the premises. An increase in rent is an example of a civil code section 1942.5 violation.
What Can I Do If My Landlord Retaliates Against Me for a Peaceably Exercised and Lawfully Organized Complaint?
If you’re being retaliated against as a tenant, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and hold your landlord accountable for violating your tenant rights. To protect your legal right, the first step is to document everything that’s happening. Keep a journal of all instances of retaliation, including dates, times, witnesses, and any other relevant details. This will be important evidence if you decide to file a civil action to recover money. You can also make an oral complaint outside of court to either the landlord or an appropriate agency. A tenant who is successful in a lawsuit against retaliation my be able to recover attorneys fees and costs if they are the prevailing party in a lawsuit.
Prevailing Party Requests Attorney’s Fees: A Tenant Way to Win a Good Faith Dispute
The second step is to contact an experienced attorney who can help you assert your rights and protect you from further retaliation. An attorney can also help you file a complaint with the appropriate government agency or file a lawsuit against your landlord if necessary.
Landlord retaliation is a serious problem in California that affects millions of tenants every year. If you’re being retaliated against by your landlord, don’t suffer in silence – there are steps you can take to protect yourself and hold them accountable for their illegal actions. Landlord-tenant law can be complex, but you are protected under Civil Code section 1942.5.
The landlord is not allowed to evict if the motivations for the eviction stem from reprisal against the tenant in unlawful retaliation. The law will protect tenants from landlords who retaliate against them for trying to use their rights.
An experienced attorney can help you protect your rights and pursue any available remedies under California law. Don’t hesitate to contact an attorney if you have been the victim of retaliation in California – the sooner you take action, the better.
Filing a Civil Action — Court Action or Arbitration?
A judicial or arbitration proceeding is similar to a trial in court. However, it’s less formal than a court trial, and there’s no jury. A judicial arbitration proceeding is either a binding or non-binding process whereby an arbitrator applies the law to the facts of the case and issues an award. Be sure to bring all appropriate documents, such as evidence of the landlord’s action, including applicable documents proving that you commenced a complaint or lawfully organized with other tenants to take action.
The process of an arbitration proceeding involving both parties is conducted through an informal hearing. The parties and arbitrators meet in person to conduct an informal hearing in which the parties present arguments and evidence in support of their respective cases. A landlord must arbitrate if the contract contains an arbitration clause. The landlord cannot recover possession without going through arbitration; a landlord’s action in civil court could be transferred to an arbitration hearing if the contract provides for arbitration.
If you file an action in court, you should know that you have the burden of producing evidence to prove a violation of Civil Code section 1942.5. You must show a good faith complaint that was made and that the lessor took unlawful action, such as initiating an eviction, raising your rent, or trying to get you to quit involuntarily.
You Can Sue Your Landlord in Small Claims Court
A claim of damages for a retaliatory act can be brought in small claims court. A small claims court can decide whether the retaliatory act was severe enough to result in a violation of tenant rights. The court shall award reasonable attorney’s fees to the prevailing party in a retaliatory action case. Landlords oftentimes settle these types of cases because they know that the actual damages and punitive damages sustained by a tenant can be very high.
Producing evidence of retaliation can be as simple as showing that a good faith complaint was made regarding conditions relating to the premises and that the landlord took retaliatory action, such as a rent increase. Tenants can show a retaliatory motive by producing appropriate documents showing that the lessor’s conduct, such as an attempt to recover possession in an eviction case, was unlawful.
Attorney fees are paid by the losing party. Landlords who violate the law under the California retaliatory act might be liable to the complaining party for actual damages and attorney’s fees. A tenant can also get an order obtaining correction. The landlord must comply in obtaining correction and must cease action to recover possession.
If the retaliation is a rent hike, a reduction in services, or any other negative treatment, tenants are urged to take the offensive by filing a suit in small claims court. Tenants must provide evidence of such retaliation in front of a judge. It is recommended that the tenant keeps a copy of his/her rental agreement to use as evidence during a judicial proceeding. Tenants have a legal right pursuant to state statutes, such as California Civil Code section 1942.5.
In an effort to support the tenant’s case, the tenant should keep documents and proof of everything that occurred at the rental unit. This is for the protection of tenant’s rights and to combat decreased services. It is important to have proof of documents commencing actual damages sustained at the rental unit.
Tenants should also provide a written complaint to the judge during a judicial or arbitration proceeding involving landlord-tenant rights. A tenant’s complaint can be used during this proceeding to support their case. Condition relating to the premises that makes the rent or increase rent unbearable: you have rights to quit involuntarily if you have a good faith dispute against the rent increase.
Tenants have a variety of protections against a landlord retaliating against them. The landlord must comply with California laws that protect tenants. If an eviction action is filed, the tenant has an affirmative defense against eviction. Tenants should have appropriate documents ready so that they can present such documents commencing a defense to an appropriate agency, such as a building inspector. State statutes protect against a tenant’s exercise of his or her rights, and a tenant who is the prevailing party can recover actual damages sustained in a judicial proceeding. Attorney’s fees may also be available.
It is important for tenants to know that they have the legal right to defend against a landlord’s retaliation. Contact our office today if you wish to know more about a particular legal right; landlord-tenant attorney James L. Arrasmith is here to help you. A landlord and tenant attorney such as James L. Arrasmith can help you obtain an award of financial compensation, including an award of reasonable attorney’s fees, in a judicial or arbitration proceeding involving tenant rights and unlawful infringement upon such rights.
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