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

In most states, landlords and property managers can't punish renters acting with their legal rights. Landlord retaliation or "retaliatory conduct" takes many forms, from harassment to eviction. Tenants facing retaliatory acts may file a lawsuit in small claims court.

This article provides a general overview of retaliation by landlords. It also details the types of conduct considered retaliation. See FindLaw's Landlord-Tenant Law section for related articles and resources.

Landlord Retaliation Explained

Unlawful retaliatory action occurs when an authority figure — such as a government official, manager, or residential landlord — punishes a subordinate for making a legitimate complaint in good faith. Landlords engage in retaliatory conduct when they try to punish a tenant for making a legitimate claim against them.

A landlord who gives a tenant an eviction notice after the tenant complained about a broken heater is likely engaged in landlord retaliation. A tenant will likely file a complaint with the local housing authority of a housing code violation. In this example, the local housing authority or building inspector is the party to whom the tenant made a legitimate complaint.

Landlord Actions Considered Retaliatory

Most state laws protect tenants from retaliatory conduct. These laws vary, however, from state to state.

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

Eviction vs. Retaliatory Action

A distinguishing factor between an eviction and a retaliatory action is that a landlord needs a valid reason to file an eviction lawsuit, such as nonpayment of rent or destruction of the rental property. If a tenant's actions constitute a lease violation, the landlord likely has cause to file the eviction action.

Retaliatory Action vs. Housing Discrimination

Some of the acts that constitute housing discrimination can fall under retaliatory actions. Housing discrimination occurs when a real estate professional discriminates based on a protected characteristic. Protected characteristics include race and sexual orientation. A landlord-tenant attorney can help you determine how to categorize your landlord's actions.

Know Your State's Landlord Retaliation Laws

State statutes and local laws that govern landlord retaliation vary from place to place. You should understand your state laws before filing a retaliation claim. It is essential to understand the laws where you live before filing a claim if you believe your landlord retaliated against you.

For example, landlords in Texas can get in trouble for terminating a tenancy, filing an eviction notice, raising the 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)

Additional Resources

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

Get Legal Help

If you suspect your landlord or property manager is engaging in retaliatory conduct, you should speak to a landlord-tenant attorney. You need someone on your side who's an expert in landlord-tenant law and landlord-tenant issues. They can advise you based on your situation. Speak to a qualified, local landlord-tenant lawyer today.

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