Legislation Allows Tenants to Sue Landlords over Eviction Proceedings


This bill would allow a tenant to sue a rental property owner for libel or slander based on the statements made in an unlawful detainer action.


Legislative Brief


CAA’s Legislative Briefing is an exclusive member benefit provided to keep you informed of legislation and other regulatory issues that could or will have a direct impact on California’s rental housing industry.

AB 934 (D-Feuer, Los Angeles) – Unlawful Detainer – Privileged Communication – This bill would allow a tenant to sue a rental property owner for libel or slander based on the statements made in an unlawful detainer action. Current state law – known as litigation privilege - protects property owners from these types of claims.

CAA filed an amicus brief in a Supreme Court case in 2007, which resulted in a successful ruling for property owners and against the City of Santa Monica over its “Tenant Harassment” ordinance. That ordinance allowed tenants to sue landlords for statements made in 3-day notices and unlawful detainer actions.

AB 934 goes against the state’s core policy of protecting litigants’ access to the courts.   Current law grants all litigants and witnesses the utmost freedom of access to the courts, without fear of being harassed by a separate lawsuit.   AB 934 would discourage litigants, including those property owners who are motivated by honest intentions, from promptly serving notices to tenants who violate their leases, disturb other tenants, damage the property, or violate the law.  A property owner who could be sued by a tenant for statements made in legally required pre-litigation documents (3 Day Notices, for example), before that litigation is even resolved, will be greatly discouraged not only from pursuing a court action, but also from serving tenants with notices that may result in compliance by tenants and, thereby, obviate the need for an eviction.  The current law that prohibits these types of tenant lawsuits was not created by lawmakers because they desired to protect the unethical practitioner, but because they did not want the honest ones to be concerned with subsequent derivative actions. 

CAA is strongly opposing this attempt to change state law.  Watch for a Legislative Alert later this week, asking you to write letters in opposition to this proposal.

AB 588 (D-Manual Perez, Cathedral City) – Domestic Violence– This bill would extend from 60 days to 180 days the amount of time a victim of domestic violence may possess a restraining order or policy report before submitting a request to be released from his or her lease. The law makes the time period consistent with other time periods allowed under existing law. For example, a tenant can ask to have his of her unit door locks changed within 180 days of the issuance of a temporary restraining order or police report.

AB 884 (R-Cook, Yucaipa) – Sex Offenders– This bill would require that within 5 days of the time that a sex offender registers his new address that law enforcement must notify everyone (including schools and day care centers) who live or operate within 1,000 feet of the sex offender’s home.

SB 591 (R-Gaines, Fair Oaks) – Too Much Regulation– This bill would enact the California Smart Regulation Act and would require that a state agency determine how many regulations it imposes and reduce the total of regulations it has identified by 33 percent. The bill would require an agency to give priority to eliminating regulations that increase the regulatory burden on businesses and the business climate.

SB 688 (D-Wright, Los Angeles) – Regulatory Costs– This bill would require agencies before imposing new regulations to assess the estimated actual costs of compliance for affected businesses and individuals. If a regulation has an estimated total cost of compliance in excess of a yet undetermined amount, the regulation cannot take effect for one year following its required filing of the regulation with the Secretary of State.

SB 221 (D-Simitian, Palo Alto) – Small Claims Recovery– The bill would increase the jurisdiction of the small claims court by increasing that amount from $7,500 to $10,000.

AB 271 (R-Nestande, Palm Desert) – Class Action – This bill would allow defendants in class action lawsuits the right to appeal the class certifications ruling. Under current California practice, only the denial of a class certification motion is appealable. In most class action litigation, the battle over certification determines the entire case. An order granting class certification puts tremendous pressure on defendants to agree to settlement – even in the face of meritless claims. This phenomenon leads to the filing of more unmeritorious class actions and the waste of important judicial resources, because the cost of going to trial is too great. Within the landlord-tenant arena, past class actions have been filed in the areas of security deposits, utility/water billing, fair housing, and Proposition 65 disclosures to name a few.

SB 932 (D-Leno, San Francisco) – Fluorescent Light Bulbs– This bill states the Legislature’s intent to promote the recycling of residential fluorescent lighting.

AB 368 (R-Morrell, Redlands) – Minimum Tax– The bill would, for the first 6 taxable years of a corporation, limited partnership, limited liability partnership, and limited liability company that is a small business (defined as gross receipts, less returns and allowances of $1 million or less) reduce the company’s minimum tax.

AB 865 (R-Nestande, Palm Desert) – Property Taxation: Solar Energy– Under current law, any time solar energy systems are added to existing buildings, the building is not reassessed for purposes of increased property taxes. This tax law runs through the 2015-1016 fiscal year. AB 865 would extend these provisions through the 2032-2033 fiscal year.