California law is designed to protect and promote every tenant’s right to safe, secure housing, but the law is ineffective if tenants are afraid to assert their rights because they fear retaliation from their landlord. Accordingly, there are laws in place to protect tenants from retaliation by a landlord for the tenant’s exercise of his or her legal rights.
Retaliation may include:
- Terminating or refusing to renew a tenancy;
- Initiating eviction proceedings;
- Increasing the rent;
- Decreasing housing services, including access to amenities such as pools, gyms, parking or clubhouses which were previously enjoyed by the tenant
- Tenant harassment, including illegal entries into the tenant’s rental unit.
Retaliation may be presumed (which means the landlord will have to prove his actions are not retaliatory) if any of the above actions is taken within 180 after:
- The tenant notified the landlord, in good faith, of the tenant’s intent to repair and deduct or vacate the premises;
- The tenant made an oral complaint to the landlord regarding the substandard conditions of the unit;
- The tenant, in good faith, filed a written complaint, or an oral complaint which is registered in writing, with an appropriate agency, of which the landlord has notice, for the purpose of obtaining correction of a condition relating to habitability;
- There was an inspection or issuance of a citation, resulting from a complaint made by the tenant of which the landlord did not have notice;
- Appropriate documents have been filed starting a judicial or arbitration proceeding involving the issue of habitability;
- A judgment has been entered or an arbitration award has been signed, if any, when in the judicial proceeding or arbitration the issue of habitability is determined adversely to the landlord.
- A tenant lawfully organizes or participates in a tenant’s association or an organization advocating tenant’s rights or has lawfully and peaceably exercised any rights under the law.
A landlord who retaliates against a tenant may be liable to the tenant for any actual damages suffered by the tenant and punitive damages of up to 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 and attorney’s fees if the tenant proves an eviction attempt was retaliatory in nature.