The California Supreme Court issued a ruling Thursday, August 2nd, in a case challenging a portion of Santa Monica’s Tenant Harassment Ordinance. The case is called “Action Apartment Assn. v. City of Santa Monica.”
The court affirmed in part and reversed in part a ruling by the Court of Appeals that had struck down a local law that bars landlords from bringing knowingly baseless eviction actions.
The Supreme Court held that the state’s “litigation privilege” immunizes landlords from liability when they actually file “Unlawful Detainer” (eviction) lawsuits against tenants, even if there is no basis for the eviction.
However, the court also held that landlords can be liable — and the ordinance is valid — where landlords serve eviction notices on tenants with no intent to pursue litigation.
The Supreme Court’s decision preserves part of Santa Monica’s wrongful-eviction penalties, unlike the Court of Appeals decision, which had struck them down altogether.
The court heard oral arguments in the case on June 6th.
The original lawsuit was filed against the city in 2002.