Wrongful Eviction
Can I Sue for Emotional Distress if Wrongfully Evicted?

Can I Sue for Emotional Distress if Wrongfully Evicted?

Can I Sue for Emotional Distress if Wrongfully Evicted?


Can I Sue for Emotional Distress if Wrongfully Evicted?

Landlords attempt to evict tenants for many reasons, but not all of them are legal. Unexpectedly losing your home is a traumatic experience, and you may be wondering if you can collect damages for the emotional distress caused by a wrongful eviction.

In San Francisco, tenants with a successful wrongful eviction lawsuit may be eligible to receive financial compensation for emotional distress, although certain limitations exist. Even if the law clearly states that emotional distress damages are available, receiving compensation isn’t always straightforward. In such complex cases, a wrongful eviction attorney can help you explore the possibility of pursuing a lawsuit.

What Damages Does the Court Acknowledge in a Wrongful Eviction Lawsuit?

Once the court has determined that a tenant was wrongfully evicted, the judge or jury will examine the facts to determine how much compensation (also called damages) the tenant is entitled to receive. Specifically, the court acknowledges the following types of damages in a wrongful eviction lawsuit:

  • Statutory Damages – This is a set amount determined by a local or state statute, which may be calculated per violation or per day.
  • Actual Damages - This includes any actual losses by the tenant, or profits to the landlord, that resulted directly from the wrongful eviction. This includes the resulting inconvenience and pain (emotional distress). Damages could be awarded for losing your rent controlled home, as well as out of pocket damages such as overpayment of rent, moving expenses, medical expenses, and lost wages resulting from the wrongful eviction.
  • Other Expenses – This may include attorney fees and court costs that the tenant needs to pay during the lawsuit. Tenants may also receive compensation for future rent payments and, in some extreme cases, punitive damages.

Usually, to prove that emotional harm was done, you’ll need to demonstrate how your landlord acted poorly, such as if they harassed you during the wrongful eviction, and how it impacted you. Verbal threats and other actions taken to intimidate or scare you may also indicate that emotional distress was directly and intentionally inflicted.  

When Is It Possible to Sue for Emotional Distress?

The law permits San Francisco tenants to pursue damages for emotional distress as part of a wrongful eviction case.  Under the San Francisco Rent Ordinance, tenants may be entitled to a multiplier of three on their emotional distress damages if they can prove the landlord acted in bad faith. In other words, if the jury found you were entitled to $50,000 in emotional distress damages, and that the landlord acted in bad faith the court would automatically treble that damage to $150,000.

Emotional damage sometimes warrants compensation. However, you cannot sue for what essentially amounts to “hurt feelings.” Instead, you must demonstrate how your landlord (or their representative) acted intentionally to inflict unnecessary pain or suffering upon you during the wrongful eviction. In order to accomplish this, you will need to collect evidence with an attorney. We can help you identify ways that your eviction caused you emotional damage, which may include:

  • Loss of stable housing
  • Harassment
  • Stress caused by physical danger

Landlords are bound by law to provide a reasonable level of safety and security for their tenants. If you were wrongfully evicted, and your landlord acted egregiously during the process, you may be entitled to emotional distress damages. To receive emotional damages, the tenant will also need to demonstrate that their stress was severe and that it was directly caused by the landlord’s actions.

Contact an Attorney Right Away

If you believe you were wrongfully evicted, contact Wolford Wayne LLP for a free case analysis. We provide guidance on your individual circumstances at a consultation. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment with our legal team.

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