California landlord-tenant law is very protective of tenants and there is a codified law that specifically states that landlords are not allowed to retaliatory evict a tenant or increase their rent. California Civil Code Section 1942.5 prohibits a landlord from moving forward with a eviction or rent increase if the eviction or rent increase is based on tenant’s exercise of protected tenant rights. This article will address 1) what is retaliatory eviction and 2) how to protect yourself as a landlord from retaliatory eviction.
What is retaliatory eviction?
Retaliatory evictions occurred whenever a landlord tries to evict a tenant or increase the monthly rent because the tenant has exercised a legal right. California Civil Code Section 1942.5 details the following reasons that constitute retaliatory eviction:
Using the repair and deduct remedy, or telling the landlord that the tenant will use the repair and deduct remedy
Complaining about the condition of the rental unit to the landlord, or to an appropriate public agency after giving the landlord notice
Filing a lawsuit or beginning arbitration based on the condition of the rental unit
Cause an appropriate public agency to inspect the rental unit or to issue a citation to the landlord
This basically means if a landlord moves forward with a rent increase, 30-day, or 60-day notice to vacate the premises because the tenant complained about the condition of the property, the landlord is in violation of California Law.
Now, landlords will never disclose to the tenant that what the actual reason for the eviction or rent increase is. California law is one step ahead and presumes that the eviction is retaliatory eviction if the eviction or rent increase occurred within 6 months of the tenant exercising his/her rights.
How to protect yourself from retaliatory eviction?
However, this does not mean that landlords are prohibited from evicting a tenant for valid reasons within 6 months of tenant exercising his/her rights. As mention above, the law presumes that the eviction or rent increase is retaliatory, but this presumption is rebuttable.
What this basically means is that all the tenant has to show is that he/she exercised his/her tenant rights and that within 6 months, the landlord increased rent or tried to evict him/her and the law presumes it is retaliatory eviction. It is now up to the landlord to prove that the rent increase or eviction was not because of the exercise of tenant rights.
For a landlord to protect him/herself from being accused of retaliatory eviction, the landlord must make sure all documentation shows a legitimate reason for eviction. For example, if the landlord is evicting the tenant because the landlord is planning to sell the property, make sure any communication to the tenant details this reason. If the landlord is increasing rent because property taxes have increased, make sure this reason is documented in a letter to the tenant.
Accordingly, as a landlord, make sure any rent increase or eviction is documented correctly. As always, consult an attorney for your specific situation.
Eric W. Ching is a real estate attorney with Ching & Associates, a real estate and business law firm in San Diego.