Tenant Retaliation Defense to Eviction under Civil Code Section 1942.5

 

DP-LogoA landlord may not evict a tenant in California based on retaliation.

If the landlord retaliates against the tenant because of the exercise by the tenant of his rights or because of his complaint to an appropriate agency as to tenantability of a dwelling, and if the tenant of a dwelling is not in default as to the payment of his rent, the landlord may not recover possession of a dwelling in any action or proceeding, cause the tenant to quit involuntarily, increase the rent, or decrease any services within 180 days of any of the following:

  1. After the date upon which the tenant, in good faith, has given notice pursuant to Section 1942, or has made an oral complaint to the landlord regarding tenantability.
  2. After the date upon which the tenant, in good faith, has filed a written complaint, or an oral complaint which is registered or otherwise recorded in writing, with an appropriate agency, of which the landlord has notice, for the purpose of obtaining correction of a condition relating to tenantability.
  3. After the date of an inspection or issuance of a citation, resulting from a complaint described in paragraph (2) of which the landlord did not have notice.
  4. After the filing of appropriate documents commencing a judicial or arbitration proceeding involving the issue of tenantability.
  5. After entry of judgment or the signing of an arbitration award, if any, when in the judicial proceeding or arbitration the issue of tenantability is determined adversely to the landlord.

In each instance, the 180-day period shall run from the latest applicable date referred to in paragraphs (1) to (5), inclusive.

A tenant may not invoke this defense more than once in any 12-month period.

It is unlawful for a landlord to increase rent, decrease services, cause a tenant to quit involuntarily, bring an action to recover possession, or threaten to do any of those acts, for the purpose of retaliating against the tenant because he or she has lawfully organized or participated in a tenants’ association or an organization advocating tenants’ rights or has lawfully and peaceably exercised any rights under the law. In an action brought by or against the tenant pursuant to this subdivision, the tenant shall bear the burden of producing evidence that the landlord’s conduct was, in fact, retaliatory.

Any waiver by a tenant of his or her rights under this section is void as contrary to public policy.

Notwithstanding the above, a landlord may recover possession of a dwelling if the notice of termination, rent increase, or other act, and any pleading or statement of issues in an arbitration, if any, states the ground upon which the landlord, in good faith, seeks to recover possession, increase rent, etc.  If the statement is controverted, the landlord shall establish its truth at the trial or other hearing.

Any landlord or landlord’s agent who violates this section shall be liable to the tenant in a civil action for the following:

  1. The actual damages sustained by the tenant.
  2. Punitive damages in an amount of not less than one hundred dollars ($100) nor more than two thousand dollars ($2,000) for each retaliatory act where the landlord or agent has been guilty of fraud, oppression, or malice with respect to that act.
  3. In any action brought for damages for retaliatory eviction, the court shall award reasonable attorney’s fees to the prevailing party if either party requests attorney’s fees upon the initiation of the action.

For more information on evictions in California, visit the Law Office of David Piotrowski.

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