Retaliatory Eviction is the illegal process when a landlord evicts, or removes a tenant from a rental property because of something the tenant was legally allowed to do. Most states have laws that prohibit retaliatory evictions. Common examples of a tenant's legal activity that led to an illegal retaliatory eviction include:
- Complaining to a government agency about a violation of a housing code,
- Complaining to the landlord about a violation of the landlord's duty to the tenant, or
- Joining or creating a tenant's union
Retaliatory eviction does not necessarily mean just kicking a tenant out of a rental property. Retaliatory eviction can also occur, when in connection with a tenant's legal activity, a landlord:
- Raises rent,
- Refuses to renew a month-to-month tenancy,
- Denies access to part of the rental property, or
- Cuts of certain services like water, electricity, or gas.
In most states there is an automatic presumption that if a landlord does any of the above within a certain time of a tenant's legal activity, the landlord's action is a retaliatory eviction. An automatic presumption time frame can range from 60 days to one year. This means that if tenant A complains to a housing authority about the rental property, and landlord X evicts tenant A 7 days later, the eviction was a retaliatory eviction unless the landlord can prove otherwise. If the eviction occurs after the presumption period, the tenant bears the burden to show the eviction was a retaliatory eviction.
What Can I Do If I am Facing a Retaliatory Eviction?
If you are being affected by a retaliatory eviction, it may be possible for you to do any of the following:
- Move out and sue for damages,
- Remain in the rental property and sue for damages, or
- Withhold your rent and sue for damages.
Do I Need an Attorney if I am Facing a Retaliatory Eviction?
If you think you are the victim of a retaliatory eviction, it is strongly recommended that you contact a landlord and tenant attorney. Retaliatory eviction is a complicated legal issue, and only an attorney will be able to explain the relevant issues and help defend your rights.