A disabled tenant occupied an apartment unit with a service dog. With the intent of having the disabled tenant evicted, a neighboring tenant in the same project repeatedly complained to the landlord and Animal Control about the dog’s aggressive behavior. Later, the landlord served a three-day notice to quit on the disabled tenant for an unrelated sublease violation. The tenant did not comply with the notice to quit and the landlord filed an unlawful detainer (UD). The disabled tenant sought to recover damages from the neighbor for the landlord’s retaliatory eviction, claiming the neighbor colluded with the landlord on the service of the three-day notice and UD by routinely complaining about the disabled tenant’s service dog to the landlord. The neighbor claimed his actions to instigate the tenant’s eviction were protected, as the disabled tenant’s accusations were based on the notice to quit and UD, which are protected under the anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) statute. A California appeals court held the neighbor was not liable for the money losses of the disabled tenant for any alleged participation in the landlord’s notice to quit and UD since these actions are protected under the SLAPP litigation privilege. [Wallace v. McCubbin (2011) 196 CA 4th1169]
Editor’s note – Even though the neighboring tenant himself did not issue the three-day notice to quit or instigate the UD action – a function reserved for the landlord – his alleged involvement with the actions were still protected under anti-SLAPP law since issuing a three-day notice to quit and a UD are protected free speech or petitioning activity. However, if the neighbor had admitted to retaliatory action or illegal activity, the actions would not have been protected under anti-SLAPP law.