Citation. 440 N.W.2d 867,1989 Iowa Sup.
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Brief Fact Summary.
Tenants created an association to assert their rights, and the landlord then served some members with eviction papers.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
Landlords may not engage in retaliatory eviction. However, a tenant who proves a retaliatory purpose is not entitled to remain in possession in perpetuity. If the illegal purpose ends, the landlord can, in the absence of legislation or a binding contract, evict the tenant for legitimate reasons or for no reason at all.
A mobile home park is owned by Hillview Associates (Plaintiffs). Tenants met to discuss the physical condition of the land and the increases in rent and then formed a tenant’s association. The association had several disagreements with management over the land. A tenant struck a manager during a meeting. Several members of the association were given notice of termination, but the notice did not provide specific grounds for termination. The tenants did not leave, and so Plaintiffs filed a forcible entry and detainer action. The tenants raised the defense of retaliatory eviction and waiver.
Can a landlord evict tenants as retaliation for their membership in a tenant’s association?
Landlords may not engage in retaliatory conduct, including a retaliatory eviction. However, a tenant who proves a retaliatory purpose is not entitled to remain in possession in perpetuity. If the illegal purpose ends, the landlord can, in the absence of legislation or a binding contract, evict the tenant for legitimate reasons or for no reason at all.
When a tenant gives evidence of a retaliatory eviction, the landlord has to produce evidence of a legitimate non-retaliatory reason to overcome the presumption of retaliation.
In deciding whether a tenant has established a defense of retaliatory eviction, seven factors will be looked at to see if the landlord’s primary motivation was not retaliatory. These include: the landlord’s decision was a reasonable exercise of business judgment; the landlord in good faith desires to dispose of the entire leased property free of all tenants; the landlord in good faith desires to make a different use of the leased property; the landlord lacks the financial ability to repair the leased property, and therefore, in good faith, wishes to have it free of any tenant; the landlord as unaware of the tenant’s activities which were protected by statute; the landlord did not act at the first opportunity after he learned of the tenant’s conduct; and the landlord’s act was not discriminatory.
Here, there is substantial evidence to prove a retaliatory eviction. The landlord’s response to legitimate complaints by an attempt to terminate leases can reasonably be attributed to the tenants’ membership in the association.
A landlord cannot retaliate against tenants for asserting their right to habitable premises.