|Tenant Protected Actions||
|Landlord Retaliatory Actions||
|Penalties for Retaliation||
When Is It Illegal for Landlords to Retaliate in California?
When rent is current, it’s illegal for landlords in California to retaliate against tenants in the following ways:
- Denying access to the property.
- Raising rent.
- Reducing or stopping services.
- Deliberately removing furnishings or property.
- Reporting the immigration status of someone who lives on the property.
Tenants are protected after the following occurrences:
- Written reports about health or safety violations.
- Written or verbal complaints to the landlord about repairs.
- Participation in a tenant organization.
- Exercising rights under the law or lease.
- The end of a habitability case where the landlord loses.
The law presumes retaliation for six months after a lost habitability case or tenant complaint about repairs, health, or safety. However, tenants must prove retaliation when they exercise rights or join a protected organization. With removed property or furnishings, tenants must prove the landlord’s intent to kick them out.
What Can Tenants Do in Response in California?
California tenants can respond by suing for monetary damages plus attorney fees. Fines for intentional misconduct are up to $2,000 per act, with additional penalties for intentional attempts to dispossess the tenant. Tenants can also seek an injunction to end the lease or provide other relief.
- 1 Cal. Civ. Code § 1942.5(a) (2021)
“(a) If the lessor retaliates against the lessee because of the exercise by the lessee of the lessee’s rights under this chapter or because of the lessee’s complaint to an appropriate agency as to tenantability of a dwelling, and if the lessee of a dwelling is not in default as to the payment of rent, the lessor may not recover possession of a dwelling in any action or proceeding, cause the lessee 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 lessee, in good faith, has given notice pursuant to Section 1942 [repair of dilapidations], has provided notice of a suspected bed bug infestation, or has made an oral complaint to the lessor regarding tenantability.
“(2) After the date upon which the lessee, 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 lessor 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 lessor 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 lessor. In each instance, the 180-day period shall run from the latest applicable date referred to in paragraphs (1) to (5), inclusive.”Source Link
- 2 Cal. Civ. Code § 1942.5(b), (c), and (d) (2021)
“(b) A lessee may not invoke subdivision (a) more than once in any 12-month period.
“(c) To report, or to threaten to report, the lessee or individuals known to the landlord to be associated with the lessee to immigration authorities is a form of retaliatory conduct…
“(d) …it is unlawful for a lessor to increase rent, decrease services, cause a lessee to quit involuntarily, bring an action to recover possession, or threaten to do any of those acts, for the purpose of retaliating against the lessee because the lessee has lawfully organized or participated in a lessees’ association or an organization advocating lessees’ rights or has lawfully and peaceably exercised any rights under the law. In an action brought by or against the lessee pursuant to this subdivision, the lessee shall bear the burden of producing evidence that the lessor’s conduct was, in fact, retaliatory.Source Link
- 3 Cal. Civ. Code § 789.3(c) & (d) (2021)
“(a) A landlord shall not with intent to terminate [occupancy] … willfully cause, directly or indirectly, the interruption or termination of any utility service furnished the tenant, including, but not limited to, water, heat, light, electricity, gas, telephone, elevator, or refrigeration, whether or not the utility service is under the control of the landlord. …[or] willfully: (1) Prevent the tenant from gaining reasonable access to the property by changing the locks or using a bootlock or by any other similar method or device; (2) Remove outside doors or windows; or (3) Remove from the premises the tenant’s personal property, the furnishings, or any other items without the prior written consent of the tenant, except… [per Cal. Civ. Code § 1980 et seq.] Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to prevent the lawful eviction of a tenant by appropriate legal authorities[.]”Source Link
- 4 Cal. Civ. Code § 789.3(c) & (d) (2021)
“(c) Any landlord who violates this section shall be liable to the tenant in a civil action for… Actual damages of the tenant… [plus] An amount not to exceed one hundred dollars ($100) for each day or part thereof the landlord remains in violation… in no event shall less than two hundred fifty dollars ($250) be awarded for each separate cause of action. Subsequent or repeated violations, which are not committed contemporaneously with the initial violation, shall be treated as separate causes of action and shall be subject to a separate award of damages.
“(d) In any action under subdivision (c) the court shall award reasonable attorney’s fees to the prevailing party. In any such action the tenant may seek appropriate injunctive relief… this section is not exclusive and shall not preclude the tenant from pursuing any other remedy which the tenant may have under any other provision of law.”Source Link
- 5 Cal. Civ. Code § 1942.5(h) & (i) (2021)
“(h) Any lessor or agent of a lessor who violates this section shall be liable to the lessee in a civil action for all of the following:
“(1) The actual damages sustained by the lessee.
“(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 lessor or agent has been guilty of fraud, oppression, or malice with respect to that act.
“(i) 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.”Source Link