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Tenant Harassment
How Do You Know When Your Landlord is Retaliating Against You?

How Do You Know When Your Landlord is Retaliating Against You?

How Do You Know When Your Landlord is Retaliating Against You?


How Do You Know When Your Landlord is Retaliating Against You?

Landlord retaliation often begins when a tenant reports their landlord to a government agency, such as to the Department of Housing for housing discrimination or files a complaint against the owner because they're violating housing codes. Next, the landlord tries to increase the rent, evict, or engages in petty game-playing by denying services, such as storage or parking.

What is Considered Landlord Retaliation?

Under California Civil Code section 1942.5 (a), when a landlord commits a harassing act against their tenant in response to the tenant exercising their legal rights, it can be considered retaliation. Examples include the following:

  • Increasing rent
  • Decreasing or eliminating housing services (such as laundry services, parking, or storage)
  • Shutting off utilities
  • Locking a tenant out
  • Removing the doors or windows of the rental
  • Removing a tenant's belongings

Besides the state law, Bay Area cities, including San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland have anti-harassment laws that lists specific acts of retaliation. For example, San Francisco defines the following retaliatory acts as harassment:

  • Abusing the right of access
  • Attempting to force a tenant to move out
  • Decreasing housing services
  • Discriminating against the tenant

How to Deal with Landlord Retaliation

If you're in the position of an unsafe environment due to retaliation or your landlord has committed an illegal lockout or utility shutoff, then you can and should call the police. However, if your situation isn't as drastic or immediate, you can still act against your vengeful landlord by suing them for money damages.

What Damages are Available in a Retaliation Lawsuit?

Recoverable damages can include emotional distress, moving expenses, out of pocket cost, punitive damages, and return of rent that was paid.

  • Rent-Control Damages: These tenants may be eligible to recover the lost economic value of the rent-controlled unit, which is the value of the loss of the rent-controlled unit; this is fair market monthly rental value of the lost unit, minus the monthly rent paid on the unit when forced out, x the number of months expected to stay in the unit. For example, if it was only 6 months into your one-year lease, you're entitled to 6 months. Additionally, triple damages, plus attorney fees and costs are recoverable.
  • Illegal Lockout/Utility Shutoff Damages: Victims of a lockout or utility shutoff can recover $100 a day for every day that you're affected, with a minimum of $250, plus attorney fees and costs.
  • Disabled/Elderly Tenants: If the landlord is aware that a tenant is disabled or elderly, the penalties are tripled.

How to Prove Landlord Retaliation

They key to prevailing in a landlord retaliation lawsuit is showing the connection between your action (filing a complaint, pointing out unsafe conditions to a government entity, etc.) and the landlord's response shortly after this. You can also use their retaliation as a defense if they move to evict you.

Fight Landlord Retaliation with Wolford Wayne

If you believe that your landlord is targeting you with retaliation, don't let them get away with it. If you connect with a skilled tenants' rights attorney, you can explore the possibility of suing them and getting compensation for the harm that they caused. Our attorneys are here for you and will help you protect your rights. Contact us today to get started.



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