Retaliation Against Tenants Reporting Code Violations

This legislation would prohibit retaliation by a landlord when a tenant gives a landlord notice to repair, reports code violations to a government, reports utility problems to a public utility, or joins or participated in a tenant organization created to address problems related to the habilitability of the property. Retaliation by a landlord would include an action within three months of a complaint by a tenant that results in the landlord filing a dispossessory, the landlord depriving the tenant of the use of the premises, the landlord decreasing services to the tenant, the landlord increasing rent or terminating the lease, or the landlord materially interfering with the tenant's rights under the rental agreement. 

A landlord would be able to rebut such claims of retaliation if they were following a written escalation clause, the rent increases were part of a pattern of rent increases or a pattern of reduction of services, or the rent increase was due to terms in a state or federal program involving the receipt of federal funds, tenant assistance, or tax credits. The landlord would also be able to rebut such claims if the tenant was delinquent in rent, if the tenant intentionally damaged the property, the tenant breached the lease through serious misconduct or criminal acts, the tenant holds over after a notice of termination, or the tenant holds over at the end of a rental term. 

Landlords found to have retaliated against a tenant shall be liable for a civil penalty of one-month's rent plus $500 and other damages. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee also added a new defense for landlords if the property, within the prior 12 months, had been inspected pursuant to any federal, state, or local program which certifies that the property complies with applicable building and housing codes or if the property had been inspected within the prior 12 months by a code enforcement officer or licensed building inspector who certified that the property complied with applicable building and housing codes. 

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