By Robert Jachowicz –
Most Landlords try to work things out with their tenants prior to bringing a Summary Process action in court. By the time the relationship reaches that point, the Landlord is usually anxious to get started on the legal process. However, it is at that point, before the case is filed that the Landlord needs to think about whether the Tenant can assert that the action is considered retaliatory by the law.
Retaliation claims are reasonably complicated since there are two laws that apply, one law is a defense to possession and creates a rebuttable presumption of retaliation if the Landlord sends a notice to quit, or files a Summary Process action within 6 months of the tenant taking certain actions. There is also a counterclaim but the presumption does not apply if the termination is for non-payment of rent.
The damages are at least one month’s rent, or actual damages if greater, attorney’s fees and costs. If for some reason, the Trial Judge finds for the Landlord on the retaliation claim, and the tenant succeeds after an appeal, the tenant will also be awarded legal fees for the appeal, and legal fees for the trial as well.
Before you bring an eviction you should check with counsel to determine your exposure to a claim the eviction is retaliatory. If you’re a landlord and have questions regarding the law contact our law office to speak with an attorney.