Retaliatory Eviction: Review and Reform


Repeated complaints made by Mr. Greene, a month to month tenant, to his landlord about the rat infested hallway and faulty plumbing were ignored. In desperation, Mr. Greene notified the local housing authority. An investigation by a building inspector revealed several housing code violations. An order to repair the defects was issued to the landlord. On receipt of the order, the landlord sent Mr. Greene a notice terminating the tenancy in 30 days.

These facts illustrate a retaliatory eviction, whereby the landlord seeks to evict a tenant for having taken lawful action to compel landlord compliance with the law. A landlord may evict a holdover tenant for any reason or for no reason at all. If Mr. Greene, a hypothetical person with a typical problem, can6prove that the landlord’s overriding reason in evicting him is retaliation for Mr. Green’s complaint, can he prevent the landlord from evicting him? To put the question more fully, what rights does or should a tenant, who has taken lawful action to compel his landlord to comply with housing regulations and statutes, have against conduct by the landlord intended to penalize the tenant for such action?

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