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What Kinds of Conduct by the Landlord Does the Law Consider Retaliatory?

Nearly every state makes it illegal for a landlord to retaliate against a renter acting within their legal rights. Landlord retaliation or "retaliatory conduct" can take many forms, from harassment to eviction. Tenants who are subject to such treatment may file claims in civil court.

This article provides a general overview of retaliation by landlords, including the types of conduct that may be considered retaliation. See FindLaw's Landlord Tenant Law section for related articles and resources.

Landlord Retaliation Explained

Generally speaking, unlawful retaliatory action occurs when someone in a position of authority (such as a government official, manager, or residential landlord) punishes someone else for making a legitimate complaint. In the context of employment law, for example, a manager might retaliate against an employee by cutting their hours after that employee reports an unsafe working condition to state officials.

Similarly, a landlord could retaliate against a tenant by giving them an eviction notice after the tenant raises multiple concerns about leaky pipes or a broken heater. 

Paying For Fixes Out of Pocket

Most state laws protect renters who deduct a portion of their rent to pay for crucial issues the landlord refuses to fix. The landlord usually can't demand full rent payment if this happens.

In order to win their case, the tenant needs to prove they made a good faith effort to bring the problem to the landlord's attention.

Landlord Actions Considered Retaliatory

All but eight states protect tenants from retaliation. But, the laws differ on what types of actions are considered retaliatory. 

The following acts of landlord retaliation are prohibited by most states with such laws. These apply only if they are done in response to a tenant's legitimate complaints or other legally protected actions:

  • Refusing to renew a lease
  • Filing or threatening to file an eviction notice
  • Raising rent
  • Not performing services as requested

Know Your State's Landlord Retaliation Laws

It is essential to understand the laws in your state before filing a claim if you believe you were retaliated against by your landlord. 

For example, landlords in Texas can get in trouble for terminating a tenancy, filing an eviction notice, increasing rent, or decreasing services within six months of these renter actions:

  • Complaining to the landlord or a government agency about unsafe or illegal living conditions
  • Exercising a legal right (such as organizing a tenant union to address a grievance)

In Florida, however, exercising a legal right is not protected by that state's anti-retaliation law. The only right that is protected is complaining to the landlord or a government agency about a legitimate concern.

Landlord Retaliation: Additional Resources

If you have additional questions, you can continue your research by clicking on the links below:

Has Your Landlord Retaliated Against You? An Attorney Can Help

Have you complained to your landlord about legitimate concerns and now feel it's coming back to haunt you? Do you simply want to know how to handle a possible retaliation situation?

You have rights as a tenant. To learn more about landlord retaliation or to initiate a legal claim, consider meeting with a landlord-tenant lawyer in your area.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified real estate attorney to help you navigate any landlord-tenant issues.

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