While the landlord may evict for any legal reason or for no reason at all, he is not free to evict in retaliation for his tenant's report of housing code violations to the authorities.
A tenant reported housing violations against his landlord. She was subsequently evicted when her landlord filed suit and obtained a default judgment for possession of the premises. The tenant claimed that she was evicted in retaliation for her reporting of violations. On motion, the court set aside the default judgment for possession and held that a retaliatory motive could constitute a defense to eviction. The trial court directed a verdict for the tenant. On appeal, the appellate court affirmed the trial court's judgment holding that the right to report violations was not protected by law. The case was appealed to the United States Court of Appeals.
Is the right to report violations protected by law?
The Court reversed and remanded for a new trial. It heldthat where the housing code effected a change in the relative rights of landlords and tenants, retaliatory motive could constitute a defense. The court held that the eviction statutes were inapplicable where the court assisted in a retaliatory eviction as such assistance could result in state action subject to constitutional review and dampen a tenant's right to report violations.