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In California, can I, as a tenant, sue my landlord in Unlawful Detainer court? Also, can I counter claim OR sue him for damages?

Fairfield, CA |

My landlord is bringing me to court for an unlawful detainer action. I have already won 2 previous U.D. actions brought against me by him. My apt. was deemed uninhabitable and I was ordered to vacate immediately therefore I am entitled to relocation benefits. Also, I need to sue him fir "special damages" due to the fact that he repeatedly demanded rent on an uninhabitable property. I tried to bring him to small claims to collect relocation monies but my case was dismissed because the judge said I should have brought my claims up in U.D. court....HOWEVER....both U.D. judges informed me tgat in an U.D. action, the tenant can ONLY defend the eviction, NOT counter claim ir ask for damages. PLEASE someone give me the correct info, I'm absolutely disheveled over this. Thank you so much =]

Attorney Answers 2


  1. No. An unlawful detainer is a summary proceeding. As such, an unlawful detainer proceeding is given legal precedence over all other civil actions so that it can be quickly heard and determined. (Code of Civil Procedure §1179a.)

    A cross-complaint is not permitted in an unlawful detainer lawsuit. A defendant has no right to file a cross-complaint or counterclaim because possession is the only issue being litigated in an unlawful detainer action. (Vella v. Hudgins (1977) 20 Cal.3d 251, 255.)

    You must file a civil lawsuit for damages. The civil lawsuit may be filed as a small claims action, or a limited jurisdiction superior court action, or an unlimited jurisdiction superior court action.

    Frank W. Chen is licensed to practice law in the State of California. The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice. This posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, consult your own attorney.


  2. you cannot bring a counter claim in a UD proceeding. You would need to bring a separate lawsuit.

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