Brief Fact Summary. A tenant claimed his landlord instituted a retaliatory eviction for his participation in a labor union.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Retaliation may be asserted as a defense to a summary eviction proceeding if the landlord’s conduct is in retaliation for the tenant’s exercise of a right incidental to the tenancy.
Issue. May a residential tenant who is sued for possession for rental property assert retaliation by the landlord as a defense, and if can, must the retaliation motive be related to the tenant’s exercise of a right incidental to the tenancy?
A tenant is entitled to certain rights to a fit and habitable dwelling. When a tenant asserts a retaliatory eviction defense, he should not be punished for claiming the benefits afforded by statutes passed for his protection. A tenant should be able to complain about unfit conditions without fear of reprisal.
Retaliation may be asserted as a defense to a summary eviction proceeding if the landlord’s conduct is in retaliation for the tenant’s exercise of a right incidental to the tenancy.
Here, Defendant’s activity that he claims triggered his eviction was unrelated to the habitability of his premises. The retaliatory eviction defense must relate to activities of the tenant incidental to the tenancy. First Amendment rights unrelated to the tenant’s property interest are not protected under a retaliatory eviction defense because they do not arise from the tenancy relationship.
Discussion. If a landlord has a right to evict a tenant who is trying to improve his living conditions, tenants will be too afraid to pursue their claims. However, a tenant cannot claim a retaliatory condition unless the actions of the tenant are related to the ten