Sec. 42-812 - Retaliatory Conduct

 

A. Except as provided for in this section, a landlord may not retaliate by increasing rent or decreasing services, or by bringing or threatening to bring action for possession, or by refusing to renew a rental agreement because the tenant has in good faith:

 

1. Complained of code violations to a governmental agency, elected representative, or public official charged with responsibility for enforcement of a building, housing, health, or similar code;

 

2. Complained of a building, housing, health, or similar code violation or an illegal landlord practice to a community organization or the news media;

 

3. Sought the assistance of a community organization, including a legal aid organization, or the news media to remedy a code violation or illegal landlord practice;

 

4. Requested the landlord make repairs to the premises as required by a building code, health ordinance, other regulation, or the residential rental agreement;

 

5. Organized or becomes a member of a tenant union or similar organization;

 

6. Testified in any court or administrative proceeding concerning the condition of the premises;

 

7. Exercised any right or remedy provided by law.

 

B. If the landlord violates section Sec. 42-812, the tenant has a cause of action against the landlord or a defense in any retaliatory action against them and is entitled to the following remedies:

 

1. If the landlord attempts to terminate the rental agreement, the tenant may retain possession by raising this section as a defense. If the tenant prevails on this defense, the tenant shall recover an amount equal to not more than two (2) months’ rent or twice the damages sustained by the tenant, whichever shall be greater, and reasonable attorney’s fees.

 

2. The tenant may terminate the rental agreement and vacate the property by giving the landlord written notice of the tenant’s intent to terminate the rental agreement. If the tenant does not vacate the property within one (1) month after giving written notice, or the end of the next rental period, whichever is longer, then the tenant’s written notice shall be deemed withdrawn and the rental agreement shall remain in full force and effect. If the rental agreement is terminated, the landlord shall return the security deposit within three (3) days after the tenant tenders possession.

 

3. If the tenant files a cause of action against the landlord, the tenant shall recover an amount equal to not more than two (2) months’ rent or twice the damages sustained by the tenant, whichever is greater, and reasonable attorney’s fees.

 

C. In an action by or against the tenant, if the tenant presents evidence of a complaint within one (1) year prior to the alleged act of retaliation, the court shall presume that the landlord’s conduct is retaliatory. The landlord may rebut the presumption of retaliation by proving a legitimate, non-retaliatory basis for the conduct.

 

D. The presumption shall not arise if the tenant made the complaint after written notice of a proposed rent increase.

 

E. A landlord’s behavior shall not be considered retaliatory if any code violation was caused primarily by the lack of care of the tenant, a member of the tenant’s family or other person on the premises with the tenant’s consent.