Constructive Eviction and What You Can Do About It

Constructive Eviction is a legal term that refers to a landlord’s attempt to interfere with their tenant’s right to quietly enjoy the rental unit in which they live. When living in a rental unit becomes intolerable for the tenant, either because of its deplorable condition or because the landlord harasses the tenant, the tenant has suffered a “constructive eviction.”  

This blog post explains how California law protects tenants from constructive eviction. We also describe how tenants can fight back. Landlords can be ordered to pay the tenants for all their moving expenses, plus compensation for other physical or emotional damages they suffered because of the constructive eviction. The law may also provide for punitive damages to discourage the property owner from repeating the unlawful conduct.  

Tenant’s Law Group — We’re Here to Help 

Tenants Law Group is California’s largest law firm exclusively committed to representing tenants whose rights are violated by property owners’ negligent, abusive, or discriminatory actions.  

We fight to vindicate tenants’ legal rights, recover the compensation they deserve under the law, and restore their personal dignity and sense of humanity to them. If you need our help with your tenancy dispute, contact us today. 

Constructive Eviction Can Result from the Landlord’s Action or Inaction 

Constructive eviction differs from a legal eviction because the property owner is using “self-help” to accomplish their goal instead of the formal legal process of filing an “unlawful detainer” action in court. Constructive eviction can occur when a landlord actively interferes with a tenant’s rights or when the landlord ignores their legal responsibility to repair or maintain the tenant’s rental unit.  

California Code, Civil Code – CIV § 1940.2 details the actions landlord are legally barred from using in an attempt to force a tenant to vacate their rental unit.  

Under California law, a landlord cannot take any of the following actions: 

  • Take a tenant’s property intending to keep it, or move the property and keep it for any time to deny the tenant its enjoyment or value; (This may also be a crime.) 
  • Obtain anything from a tenant by wrongfully using or threatening them with force or instilling fear in the tenant; (This is illegal anytime, even if a tenant is not constructively evicted. This may also be a crime.)  
  • Use or threaten force or menacing conduct in the pattern of conduct that interferes with a tenant’s peaceful enjoyment of their rental unit or the common areas; 
  • Enter the tenant’s rental unit outside of normal business hours, or without their consent, unless there is an emergency, or the tenant has surrendered or abandoned the rental unit. The landlord must provide reasonable notice to the tenant about their plan to enter the unit; 
  • Threaten to report or reveal the immigration or citizenship status of a tenant, an occupant, or another person whom the landlord knows to be associated with the tenant; (This is illegal even when the tenant is not constructively evicted.) 

 Constructive Eviction by a Landlord’s Neglect 

A tenant can also suffer a constructive eviction when a property owner refuses to provide a rental unit that is reasonably habitable according to California’s minimum standards. State law declares a rental unit to be legally “uninhabitable” unless it has basic fixtures and safe, decent, clean, and secure facilities. Every unit must at least meet the minimum conditions required for a person to live with dignity.  

California law provides a long list of Items that are absolutely necessary for a rental unit to be habitable, including but not limited to the following: 

  • A clean, sanitary, and safe building and grounds free from filth, garbage, debris, rodents, and other vermin,
  • Hot and cold running water and plumbing fixtures in good working order water and connected to a sewage disposal system,
  • Heat, lighting, and electric facilities in good working order,
  • Trash receptacles
  • A locking mail receptacle for each individual unit,
  • A working toilet, wash basin, and bathtub or shower in a properly ventilated room, allowing the user’s privacy, 
  • Locking windows that open in every room, or other safe working ventilation,
  • Safe fire or emergency exits and storage areas free from combustible materials, 
  • Operable deadbolt locks on the main entry doors of rental units, 

When a rental unit lacks one or more of these features, a tenant should notify the landlord immediately. If the landlord fails or refuses to correct the problem within a reasonable time, California law entitles a tenant to take the following actions: 

  • Withhold rent for situations involving more than minor repairs, 
  • Make minor repairs themselves and deduct the cost from rent payments,  
  • Leave the tenancy before the expiration of the lease agreement, (constructive eviction), 
  • Sue the landlord: 
  • to compel them to correct the problems while continuing to live in the unit,  
  • to recover the costs of finding and moving to another residence,  
  • to be compensated for damages a landlord’s illegal actions or inactions caused. 

Always contact an experienced tenant’s rights lawyer before taking any action yourself. Contact us at Tenant’s Law Group to learn about your renter’s rights in California. Let us help you get the justice you deserve. 

Tenants Can Recover Money Damages / Compensation from Your Landlord 

Under California CIV § 1940.2, a court can award a tenant up to $2,000 for each time the landlord violates this statute. In addition to the civil penalty, California law provides that the landlord can be ordered to pay for any expenses a tenant incurred by needing to move, plus the value of their lost tenancy. The court can also award tenants thousands of dollars to compensate them for any physical or emotional damages they suffered because of the landlord’s illegal conduct.  

Get California’s Largest Tenant’s Rights Law Firm on Your Side 

Tenant’s rights law in California strongly protects renters who face unfair and abusive property owners. The law details what a landlord may or may not do legally. Naturally, landlord-tenant law also permits property owners to take reasonable steps to protect their property and other tenants from tenants who fail to honor their obligations.  

Tenant Law Group protects the rights of renters throughout California. We have attorneys ready to help you recover the compensation you deserve when a landlord violates your legal rights. As the largest law firm in California that only represents tenants like you, Tenant Law Group has the experience and the resources to get you justice.  

Contact Tenant Law Group today: 

In San Francisco (415) 801-8878 

In Oakland (510) 905-1012 

In Los Angeles (213) 772-3292