The Ellis Act and retaliatory eviction defense

The Ellis Act gives a landlord the absolute right to go out of the rental business. The landlord has the right to evict tenants on the basis that the building is being permanently withdrawn from the rental market.

A tenant can possibly defeat an Ellis Act eviction by asserting a retaliatory eviction defense. However, the landlord may overcome this defense if she shows the following: Is the landlord’s intent to withdraw the property bona fide or not? If a tenant can show that the landlord does not have a good faith intent to withdraw her property from the rental market, then the burden shifts to the landlord to show the truth at the hearing by a preponderance of the evidence. This is a pretty low standard.

Some retaliatory eviction defenses include landlords wanting to evict tenants within 180 days if a tenant gave notice to the landlord to repair and deduct, complained to a housing agency with or without prior notice to the landlord. A landlord can still evict a tenant who has done any of the above actions. However, the notice period for the eviction action must expire after 180 days. This defense is not available if the tenant’s rent is not current.

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Mary Catherine Wiederhold

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