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Landlord neglected apartment and harassed me until I was forced to move. Is this constructive eviction?How to determine damages?

Los Angeles, CA |

I moved out of an apartment last month after a long drama with a very bad landlord. I had lived in my old rent-controlled apartment for five years. The bad landlord bought the property a year ago, which is when my troubles began.

Here is what the landlord did:

1) Tried to raise rents in violation of LA rent control laws
2) When tenants resisted by contacting legal aid, he refused to perform maintenance on units
3) When cited by the LA housing department, he made threats of breaking into units and stealing property
4) He filed multiple eviction cases against me and other tenants alleging things that never happened. The other tenants and I won all cases. He says he will keep filing eviction cases until we leave.

I moved out last month because I could not take the stress any more CONTINUED

Do these events add up to constructive eviction? The new apartment I am renting costs $350 per month more than I was paying under rent control. It's also a less desirable unit. I'm considering filing a lawsuit because of this, but I'm not sure if I am entitled to damages or how they would be calculated. I understand that tenants who are made to move from rent-controlled units are entitled to relocation costs. Would these be recoverable?

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Attorney answers 3

Posted

Certainly threats of breaking into the units and stealing property sounds like constructive eviction. The others sound bad. Whether refusing to maintain the units is constructive eviction depends on what he was refusing to do.

From what you described, you may have a malicious prosecution claim against your landlord. Such a claim is not something you should do yourself. Speak to an attorney to discuss the benefits and risks.

Posted

With regard to your potential right to relocation fees under the Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO), you typically cannot recover the relocation fees if you voluntarily move out from a rental unit covered by the RSO. You should contact the LAHD. for more information.

http://lahd.lacity.org/lahdinternet/

Posted

Your best recourse would be to file a civil suit against your former landlord. I think you can sue him in small claims court if your claim amount is less than $10,000.

DISCLAIMER—This answer is for informational purposes only. It doesn't constitute legal advice. This answer doesn't create attorney client relationship.

Brad S Kane

Brad S Kane

Posted

The current jurisdictional limit for a small claims action by an individual is $10,000.00.

Asker

Posted

What would the basis for damages be?

Brad S Kane

Brad S Kane

Posted

I do not have enough facts to analyze your potential claims. However, my colleagues have suggested that you may have a claim for constructive eviction and malicious prosecution. In addition, you might have a claim for relocation fees under the RSO, but I have not fully analyzed it.

Asker

Posted

Without getting specific about my case, let me rephrase: Constructive eviction can be used as an affirmative defense in an unlawful detainer proceeding. Can a suit be brought against a landlord for constructive eviction, and if so, what statute(s) address how damages ate determined? BTW, thanks to all the attorneys who answered.

Brad S Kane

Brad S Kane

Posted

A cause of action for constructive eviction exists. Groh v. Kover's Bull Pen, Inc., 221 Cal.App.2d 611, 614 (1963); Kulawitz v. Pac. Woodenware & Paper Co., 25 Cal.2d 644, 669-670 (1944). Under Civil Code 1940.2, you may also be entitled to a $2,000.00 statutory penalty.

Asker

Posted

The $2,000 statutory penalty is very clear, thanks. Would I also be entitled to actual damages (increased rent, moving costs, etc.)? If so, how are those determined (generally speaking)?

Brad S Kane

Brad S Kane

Posted

Generally speaking damages may include moving costs and the additional reasonable cost of a comparable unit, especially if the original unit was under rent control. Finally, another related statute for constructive termination based upon preventing access and terminating services is Civil Code 789.3, which is does not apply to your facts.

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