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Does landlord threat to file a false police report against tenant qualify as evidence of malice?

San Diego, CA |
Filed under: Landlord-tenant

I’m suing my previous landlord for defrauding me into making improvements to the apartment I rented in exchange for rent credit. When I demanded that the landlord properly compensate me, the landlord retaliated by threatening to file false police reports against me with false accusations of trespass, destruction of property, etc., and I have the recordings of the voicemails with the threats. Civil Code 1942.5(f)(2) allows an award of punitive damages for retaliatory acts made with fraud, oppression, or malice. Do the threats to file false police reports count as malice?

Attorney Answers 3

Posted

"Threats" of retaliation do not amount to retaliation. So, unless he actually acted on his threats, you have no retaliation case on these facts.

Kevin King, Principal- Essential Law Services. HTTP://ESSENTIALAW.COM. The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended and should not be construed as legal advice for a particular case. This post does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author of the question answered. For specific advice about your particular situation, consult with me or another qualified attorney off-site.

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7 comments

Asker

Posted

My question was specifically whether a willful threat to file a false police report qualifies as an act of malice. The landlord did a lot of improper things. The threats were not purely retaliatory but also meant to try to influence me to vacate the apartment ASAP. In addition, the landlord did raise my rent twice within two weeks as retaliation and in the end evicted me because I reported habitability violations to the County DEH. I'd think, using basic logic, if malice often involves an intent to commit an unlawful act, and filing a false police report is an unlawful act, and the intent is to harm without justification or excuse, with willful disregard of the rights and safety of others, then such an act or threat to do such an act, whether it is retaliatory or meant to influence a tenant to move out, would probably be considered tainted by malice and worthy of punitive damages.

Asker

Posted

Back to your point on retaliation, Civil Code 1942.5(c) DOES state "It is unlawful for a lessor to increase rent, decrease services, cause a lessee to quit involuntarily, bring an action to recover possession, or THREATEN to do any of those acts, for the purpose of retaliating against the lessee because he or she ... has lawfully and peaceably exercised any rights under the law" and Civil Code 1940.2(a)(3) states "Use, or THREATEN to use, force, willful threats, or menacing conduct..." (emphases added.) A better question on that is that even though Civil Code 1942.5(c) states that "threats" of retaliation CAN indeed count as retaliation, the "acts" which it names are basically "landlord-tenant" acts such as raising the rent, decreasing services, causing to quit involuntarily, evicting, etc.. A question is then whether Civil Code 1942.5 could include "other acts" such as "filing a false police report" as a threat or act of retaliation. I might post this particular question separately.

Kevin Lewis King

Kevin Lewis King

Posted

The problem you have to overcome is establishing that the landlord did (or threatened to do) the thing you allege with a retaliatory intent. How do you prove that his state of mind was "retaliatory?" I'm not saying it wasn't, just asking from a very practical standpoint, how do you establish that for the court? How do you get inside his brain and put his state of mind on display before the court? Further, the thing you accuse him of (i.e, threatening to file a police report with allegedly false accusations against you) doesn't fit neatly into the language of 1942.5, as you recognize. How does his threatening to file a police report for trespass and/or destruction of property amount to "increas[ing] rent, decreas[ing] services, caus[ing] a lessee to quit involuntarily, [or] bring[ing] an action to recover possession?" And since the connection between your allegations and what the statute requires is tenuous, do you have a case that is worth the money, time and effort to pursue? What is the dollar amount of your ACTUAL damages from making the improvements? Discount for this calculation any statutory or punitive damages to which you think you are entitled. How much are we talking here? If it's not tens of thousands of dollars, in my opinion, you are wasting your time unless you're only looking for vindication and maybe some retaliation of your own. In any event, good luck.

Asker

Posted

Thanks. You bring up several new points. First, the landlord in this case was “way over the top” (and stupid) and left me numerous emails and voicemails (recorded and transcribed) saying, for example, “call off the county” and later “you didn’t call off the county DEH, so I guess this is over” which was followed promptly by my eviction. The evidence is very clear and convincing regarding SEVEN violations of CC § 1942.5 including raising the rent twice in two weeks (from $650 to $850 to $1000), threatening to cut off utilities, threatening illegal lockout, etc., plus the actual eviction, at least FOUR acts in violation of CC § 1940.2, SEVEN 24 Hour notices to enter within 2 weeks in violation of CC § 1954(c) to harass and “take pictures.” The list goes on and on (sometimes I wonder if the landlord is mentally ill). ACTUAL damages are around $10,000. But the above acts, which do conform with statute could yield up to around $22,000 statutory damages. I agree with you that California landlord-tenant law on harassment and acts basically related and limited to “landlord-tenant” acts (CC §§ 789.3, 1942.5, 1954(c),1940.2, 1927, 51). The threats of false police reports are more likely related to intentional infliction of emotional distress including the landlord’s independent threats to “ruin” me, “preaching” telling me I was “going to hell,” telling other tenant’s I was a “con man” and a list of other very weird and nasty behavior. This goes right back to the initial question on malice which wasn’t really addressed. I think it was pretty malicious and was looking for feedback from attorney’s experience with this kind of situation (and related to punitive damages and a pre-trial motion for an order for financial discovery).

Asker

Posted

Newby v. Alto Riviera Apartments (1976) 60 Cal. App.3d 288 is a good example of a case based on retaliatory THREATS alone.

Kevin Lewis King

Kevin Lewis King

Posted

Any update on this matter? I'm curious.

Asker

Posted

Hello. The case is in discovery and trial is set for late May 2013, but the landlord might settle before. My evidence regarding the landlord's violations is pretty strong and direct and the landlord has produced nothing that would help him. Here are some related questions and answers below. First, retaliatory acts under CC 1942.5 under California law appear to be limited to "landlord-tenant" acts, even if merely threatened (also cited in CACI 4322): http://www.avvo.com/legal-answers/scope-of-retaliatory-acts-in-civil-code---1942-5--1010999.html However, the acts which I describe may be actionable under IIED, including the malicious element: http://www.avvo.com/legal-answers/how-can-i-respond-legally-to-threats-to-file-false-1011467.html That's all I can say for now.

Posted

Your situation sounds as though you need a lawyer. Rather than get advice on the Internet, please contact me for a free consultation at 877-603-8473 and we can go over everything in detail. My website it below. Best of luck.

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Kevin Lewis King

Kevin Lewis King

Posted

The poster seems to be going it alone.

Posted

I have to agree with Attorney King.

-Michael R. Juarez Law Office of Juarez and Schaeffer PO Box 16216 San Diego, CA 92105 (619) 804-4327 www.jslaw.org Mike@jslaw.org This posting is provided for “information purposes” only and should not be relied upon as "legal advice." Nothing transmitted from this posting constitutes the establishment of an attorney-client relationship. Applicability of the legal principles discussed here may differ substantially in individual situations or in different jurisdictions.

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3 comments

Asker

Posted

Did you read the comments following Attorney King's answer? CC 1940.2 and CC 1942.5 do indeed include THREATS as actionable, but not threats to file false police reports, which Attorney King acknowledged. I realize that threats to file false police reports, even though possible retaliatory, are better argued under a different cause of action besides retaliation, possibly intentional infliction of emotional distress, but that is a different question. See http://www.avvo.com/legal-answers/introduction-of-landlord-s--other-acts--under-evid-1013370.html However, the specific question as to malice, the subject of this post, was never answered. The question remains whether such threats would be considered "malicious," whatever the cause of action, and I believe they are.

Asker

Posted

http://www.avvo.com/legal-answers/how-can-i-respond-legally-to-threats-to-file-false-1011467.html

Asker

Posted

Newby v. Alto Riviera Apartments (1976) 60 Cal. App.3d 288 is a good example of a case based on retaliatory THREATS alone.

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