In response to the increased attempts by some landlords to force tenants to vacate their homes through persistent aggressive, abusive, and intimidating means, Concord’s City Council recently passed the Residential Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance. The law went into effect July 28, 2022. To find out if you are protected under the new law, what constitutes harassment by your landlord, and what steps you can take if you are being harassed, we have put together the below guide.
Yes, the law applies to ALL residential rental units in the City of Concord. Concord, Cal. Mun. Code § 19.50.010(b).
Does the City of Concord Residential Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance apply to both owners and property managers?
Yes. Not only are owners of property prohibited from harassing their tenants but so are any of the owners’ employees, including property managers. The law defines an owner or landlord as “any person, acting as principal or through an employee or property manager, having the right to offer residential real property for rent.” Concord, Cal. Mun. Code § 19.50.010(b)(3).
What is considered landlord harassment under the City of Concord Residential Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance?
Landlords and their employees, including property managers, who engage in any of the following in bad faith are liable for harassment:
- Violate or threaten to violate a tenant’s quiet enjoyment including, conducting elective renovations or construction without a tenant’s written consent, shutting off utilities, terminating, disrupting, or failing to provide housing service required by the rental agreement, and propose or require unilateral material changes to a tenancy when the lease is still in effect, unless allowed by federal, state, or local law.
- Fail to provide a habitable unit, including failing to perform timely repairs or maintenance, failing to exercise due diligence in completing repairs or maintenance, failing to comply with a notice of violation issued by the city, violating the warranty of habitability under state law, or violating health and safety standards under the law.
- Abuse the right to enter a unit, including any entries in violation of California Civil Code Section 1954, photographing or recording the unit outside of the scope of the reason for the entry, misrepresenting the reason for entry, failing to notify the tenant that the request to enter has been cancelled, and entries that are excessive in number.
- Force a tenant to move out of their home through misrepresentation, fraud, intimidation, or coercion, taking away housing services, threatening to report a tenant or anyone associated with the tenant to Homeland Security, or threatening to report a tenant to a government agency citizenship or immigration information.
- Discriminate against a tenant in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, the Unruh Civil Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act, or any other applicable state or federal law.
- Misrepresent that a tenant must vacate their unit by taking action to force the tenant out of their home through an eviction notice or action that is based on facts the landlord has no reasonable cause to believe are true or under an untenable legal theory, or by providing materially false information about any applicable law that makes the tenant believe they must move out of their home.
- Refuse to acknowledge or refuse to accept lawfully paid rent, fail to provide a current address for payment, fail to provide a receipt for payment, or violate a tenant’s right to provide payment by check, unless authorized by California Civil Code Section 1947.3.
- Violate a tenant’s right to privacy by asking for or releasing information about citizenship status, protected-class status, or relationship status, or by requiring the tenant’s Social Security number, unless used for purposes of tenancy qualifications.
- Interfere with tenant’s right to organize, meet, contact other tenants, or post or distribute literature, or interfere with these activities when conducted by any person who was invited to the property by an occupant.
- Any other acts meant to harass a tenant such as not communicating with a tenant in the tenant’s primary language to intimidate, confuse, deceive, or annoy the tenant, text a tenant after a tenant requested in writing that the landlord not text, require a tenant to waive their rights under the ordinance, and any other acts or omissions meant to substantially interfere with a tenant’s rights. Concord, Cal. Mun. Code § 19.50.020.
Is my landlord prohibited from retaliating against me under the City of Residential Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance?
Yes. Landlords and their employees are prohibited from retaliating against a tenant for exercising a lawful tenant right by raising rent, reducing housing services, engaging in discrimination, or causing a tenant to move out. Concord, Cal. Mun. Code § 19.50.030.
What steps can I take if my landlord is harassing me in violation of the City of Residential Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance?
It is illegal for your landlord to harass you. Often, tenants are afraid to take action against their abusive landlord, especially when the behavior is difficult to prove. Some of the steps that you can take to prove your landlord is harassing you are the following:
- Create and keep documentation. Put complaints to your landlord or management in writing, which includes letters, emails, and texts. Maintain all written responses. Make notes of times and dates of all incidences.
- Make a written complaint to your local rent board, housing agency, or applicable government agency such as code enforcement, vector control, or the department of public health.
- Seek out witnesses. If other tenants are witnesses to the harassment or are victims of harassment too, get their written statements. Keep any written communications such as texts that you have sent to family, friends, or other tenants about the harassment.
- Take photographs and videos of the poor, unsafe, or uninhabitable conditions of the property.
- If your landlord, property manager, or any of their employees harms you or threatens harm either through words or actions, immediately call your local police department for help.
- When under immanent threat of violence, file for a restraining order.
- Contact an experienced tenant lawyer to help you better understand your tenant rights and to take action against your harassing landlord.
Can I sue my landlord for violating the City of Concord Residential Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance?
Tenants may sue the property owner, property manager, or any employee of the owner for violation of the ordinance and may seek their actual, statutory, or direct damages. Concord, Cal. Mun. Code § 19.50.040(a). The owner, property manager, or employee of the owner may also be liable for civil penalties of $2,000 to $5,000 per violation, plus an additional $5,000 if the tenant is sixty-five years old or older or is disabled. Id.
In addition, anyone who “violates, aids, abets, or incites” someone to violate the ordinance will be liable for no less than three times the tenant’s actual damages, including mental or emotional distress damages when the defendant acted in knowing violation of or in reckless disregard of the law, or $1,000, whichever is greater. Concord, Cal. Mun. Code § 19.50.040(b).
The court may also award punitive damages but may not award both punitive and triple damages. Concord, Cal. Mun. Code § 19.50.040(c).
A tenant that wins their lawsuit against their landlord is entitled to reasonable attorney fees and costs. Concord, Cal. Mun. Code § 19.50.040(d). However, if the court finds the tenant’s lawsuit frivolous and the landlord wins, the landlord will be entitled to reasonable attorney fees and costs. Id.
If you are a tenant in the City of Concord and your landlord is engaging in any of the above behavior in violation of the Residential Tenant Anti-Harassment ordinance, call Tobener Ravenscroft LLP to speak to a tenant harassment lawyer about your rights. Call 415-504-2165.