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Does State Law Allow Landlords to Retaliate?

Most states prohibit residential landlords and property managers from engaging in retaliatory conduct in response to a tenant exercising their legal rights. Retaliatory conduct includes increasing a tenant's rent or evicting a tenant because they formed a tenant organization or filed a complaint with a government agency.

Understanding Landlord Retaliation

All tenants have fundamental tenant rights during their tenancy. These rights include, but are not limited to:

  • The right to live in a safe and habitable dwelling unit. This includes withholding rent if the tenant meets the criteria to do so.
  • The right to organize or create tenant organizations, like a tenant's union.
  • The right to privacy in their dwelling unit.
  • The right to freedom from housing discrimination.
  • The right to return of their security deposit.

In many states, if a landlord violates a tenant's rights, that tenant can file a complaint with a government agency or a lawsuit, depending on the circumstances. For example, if the living conditions in a dwelling unit fall below habitability standards, tenants can file a complaint with the local housing authority. The agency will send an inspector to the rental property to check for housing code violations and issue an infraction.

Tenants exercising their rights expose themselves to possible retaliation from their landlords.

Retaliatory Acts

Retaliatory acts often follow protected tenant activity, often by six months to a year. Please note these acts themselves are not considered retaliatory. There should be a temporal (time) connection between the tenant's and landlord's actions. We must consider the circumstances of these acts to determine if they are retaliatory conduct.

Retaliatory acts include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Decreasing services
  • Eviction lawsuit/retaliatory eviction
  • Rent increase
  • Privacy violations
  • Refusing to renew a lease agreement

Tenant Remedies for Retaliatory Conduct

State and local laws protect tenants from landlord retaliation. Tenants can file a claim in small claims court to address landlord retaliation. In some jurisdictions, like the District of Columbia, courts automatically presume the landlord's conduct is retaliatory. This burdens the landlord to prove their conduct was not retaliatory.

If a court finds in favor of the tenant, they can award one or more of the following:

  • One month's rent
  • Court costs
  • Reasonable attorney's fees

It is important to note that landlord-tenant laws vary from state to state, so you should check your state's laws first.

Below is a list of anti-retaliation laws by state.

State Statute

Ala. Code 35-9A-501


Alaska Stat. 34.03.310


Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. 33-1381


Ark. Code Ann. 20-27-608


Cal. Civ. Code 1942.51


No statute


Conn. Gen. Stat. 47a-33


Del. Code Ann. tit. 25, 5516

District of Columbia

D.C. Code 42-3505.02


Fla. Stat. Ann. 83.64

Georgia O.C.G.A. § 44-7-24

Haw. Rev. Stat. 521-74

Idaho Idaho Code Section 55-2015

765 Ill. Comp. Stat. 720/1


Ind. Code Section 32-31-9-8


Iowa Code Ann. 562A.36


Kan. Stat. Ann. 58-2572


Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. 383.705


No statute


4 Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 14, 6001(3)(4)


Md. Code Ann. [Real Prop.] 8-208.1 1


Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 186, sec. 18


Mich. Comp. Laws 600.5720


Minn. Stat. Ann. 504B.441, 504B.285


Miss. Code Ann. 89-8-17


No statute


Mont. Code Ann. 70-24-431


Neb. Rev. Stat. 76-1439


Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. 118A.510

New Hampshire

N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. 540:13-a, 540:13-b

New Jersey

N.J. Stat. Ann. 2A:42-10.10

New Mexico

N.M. Stat. Ann. 47-8-39

New York

N.Y. Real Prop. Law 223-b

North Carolina

N.C. Gen. Stat. 42-37.1

North Dakota

No statute


Ohio Rev. Code Ann. 5321.02


No statute


Or. Rev. Stat. 90.385


68 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. 250.399.11

Rhode Island

R.I. Gen. Laws Ann. 34-20-10, 34-20-11

South Carolina

S.C. Code Ann. 27-40-910

South Dakota

S.D. Cod. Laws Ann. 43-32-28


Tenn. Code Ann. 66-28-514, 68-111-105


Tex. Prop. Code 92.33192.332


Building Monitoring Sys. v. Paxton, 905 P.2d 1215 (Utah 1995)


Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 9, 4465


Va. Code Ann. 55-248.39


Wash. Rev. Code 59.18.240

West Virginia

West Virginia Code | §37-15-7


Wis. Stat. 704.45


No statute

State Anti-Retaliation Statutes: Related Resources

If you or someone you know is facing a housing discrimination situation, you can do more research by clicking the links below. If you need further help, contact a local attorney to know your rights.

Get Legal Help

Seek legal advice if you believe your landlord has engaged in retaliatory conduct toward you. Landlord-tenant lawyers are experts in landlord-tenant law and can advise you on your legal rights as a tenant. Speak to an experienced, local landlord-tenant attorney today.

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