Retaliation – Victory in the Oregon Supreme Court

At the end of May 2013, the Oregon Supreme Court handed all Oregon tenants a major victory when their ruling in a case made it clear that tenants in Oregon have the ability to win retaliation cases against their landlords. In its opinion, the court ruled that for a tenant to win a retaliation claim (or defense), the tenant must prove “that the tenant’s protected activity was a factor that made a difference in the landlord’s decision [to retaliate].”

Remember, not just anything counts as landlord retaliation. Only the following categories of conduct can be landlord retaliation:

  1. Raising your rent
  2. Giving you a notice that you are being kicked out (a notice of termination)
  3. Filing, or threatening to file, an eviction case against you
  4. Intentionally and unreasonably impairing your enjoyment or use of your home (and any common areas)

Before the supreme court’s new decision, tenants had been held to a much-higher, practically impossible standard of proving that the landlord had an evil intent, and was retaliating as a sort of eye-for-an-eye retribution against a tenant who caused them some injury.

Fortunately, the new decision means that tenants have the following rights:

  1. Tenants can avoid being evicted if they can show the court that the landlord filed the eviction case against them because the tenant engaged in some type of protected activity (like making reasonable complaints to the landlord or to government agencies about problems at the home)
  2. Tenants can sue their landlord and win money if their landlord retaliates against them. The amount tenants can win is either the cash value of two months of their rent, or twice their actual damages, whichever amount is greater.

Tenants do not need to prove that their protected activity was the only reason, or even the main reason, for the landlord’s retaliation. They only need to show that contributed to the landlord’s decision to take retaliatory action.

And, as always in landlord-tenant cases, the court can order the losing party to pay for the winning party’s lawyer.

Retaliation is no longer something that landlords can get away with in Oregon. If you have been retaliated against, do not wait to contact a landlord-tenant attorney. A good attorney can save your home! Call Portland Defender today for a free consultation, at (503) 592-0606.