Landlord's may not retaliate against a tenant for lawful actions taken to protect a tenant's rights. Usually, the first indication that an action may be illegal retaliation is that it follows a tenant's exercise of a legal act regarding the tenancy. It is not necessary for a tenant to have finished exercising the right, they need only to have asserted the right or attempted to use or assert it.
Most states specifically address retaliatory acts by landlords. There are civil and potentially criminal penalties for retaliatory acts against a tenant exercising his/her legal rights.
The following are examples of retaliatory acts cited in state statutes and/or administrative codes:
1. Decreasing the services available to the tenant;
2. Filing an eviction action in court;
3. Refusing to renew the lease;
4. Terminating a tenancy;
5. Giving notice preventing the automatic renewal of a lease;
6. Constructively evict a tenant by reducing heat, water or electricity;
7. Threatening to do any of the above.
It is important to note that in many states the tenant need only show that the majority of evidence indicates the landlord would not have taken the action “but for” the tenant’s exercise of a tenant right. Though the landlord could have other legitimate reasons for doing the eviction or act, the act(s) could still be considered retaliation and thus illegal if the landlord would not have performed the act(s) except that the tenant exercised his or her rights.