Most states protect tenants from retaliation

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Q: I may be heading into a contested eviction, and wonder if I should settle. These tenants went to a local nonprofit agency that handles fair housing and accused me of discrimination. The nonprofit didn’t pursue it, and I terminated the tenancy. Now they’re claiming that I retaliated against them. What do you think? –Bob W.

A: In most states, landlords may terminate month-to-month tenancies for any reason that is not discriminatory or retaliatory (only Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Wyoming have no anti-retaliation laws). Anti-retaliation laws typically protect tenants against termination (or other acts intended to punish them for complaining) in some or all of the following situations: when they have exercised a tenant right (such as rent withholding); formed or been involved with a tenant organization; or complained in good faith to the landlord or a government agency in charge of enforcing tenant or housing rights.

Some laws presume that the landlord’s motive was retaliatory if the landlord took negative action within a specified time of the protected tenant activity (such as six months), but allow the landlord to rebut this presumption by offering evidence to the contrary.