Retaliatory eviction

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In American landlord–tenant law, a retaliatory eviction is a substantive defense and affirmative cause of action that can be used by a tenant against a landlord. If a tenant reports sanitary violations or violations of minimum housing standards, the landlord cannot evict the tenant in retaliation.


Retaliatory eviction first appeared as a tenant's defense against eviction in Edwards v. Habib, where a tenant was evicted after reporting sanitary code violations. The D.C. Circuit recognized that the eviction was unjustified because it was in retaliation for the reporting of violations.[1]

As a defense[edit]

The defense of retaliatory eviction was first recognized in the D.C. Circuit case Edwards v. Habib.

West Virginia[edit]

The case Imperial Colliery Co. v. Fout,[2] the West Virginia Supreme Court reaffirmed that retaliatory eviction was a valid defense against eviction, but added the condition that the retaliation must be against a tenant's exercise of a right incidental to their tenancy. Therefore, a defense of retaliatory eviction did not exist for a tenant evicted after participating in a labor strike.


1942.5 is the California Civil Code that establishes a renters rights, and defines a Retaliatory Evection in the state of California.

In 1980 the California Supreme Court issued a ruling in California "Barela v. Superior Court"[3]overturning a lower courts ruling stating that "California has a long history of protecting those citizens who report violations of the criminal laws." The Orange County, California Superior Court had entered a judgment, evicting petitioner, Alice Barela, the California Supreme Court issued a ruling stating the evection was retalitory. "Barela" had called the Santa Ana Police Department to complain that her landlord, Leonardo Valdez, had sexually molested her nine-year-old daughter. Valdez then issued a notice to vacate and filed a Unlawful Detainer proceeding to evict Barela.

As a cause of action[edit]

Retaliatory eviction was first recognized as a cause of action in the California case Aweeka v. Bonds.[4] The case recognized the inequity of forcing the tenant to wait until they were confronted with an unlawful detainer action to bring up retaliatory eviction as a defense.


  1. ^ Casner, A.J. et al. Cases and Text on Property, Fifth Edition. Aspen Publishers, New York, NY: 2004, p. 504
  2. ^ Imperial Colliery Co. v. Fout, 179 W.Va. 776 (1988)
  3. ^
  4. ^ Aweeka v. Bonds, 20 Cal.App.3d 278 (1971)