Unhappy renter? Be careful, what you share online could get you evicted

Landlords have been known to use Facebook to vet tenants before they sign their lease, but what you post online after you’ve moved in could also get you kicked out. 
We’re talking about language in leases that’s commonly referred to as a non-disparagement clause. 

Check your lease before you post a negative review

Clark.com obtained a copy of a lease agreement that makes it clear there will be consequences, including eviction, for residents who post negative reviews about the place. 

Here are a few excerpts so that you can check your own lease for this clause: 
Resident and occupants shall not publish, misuse, or use any photos or video of Management employees or the apartment community or signage.
Resident and occupants shall not make, post, or publish misleading, deceptive, untruthful, groundless, false, or unfair statements or commentary about the apartment community, the Management employees, the owner, or Management on or to any internet website or domain, internet blog, internet social media, newspaper, magazine, television, radio, or other news or social media. Resident is prohibited from making, publishing, stating, or posting any statement or communication that, while partially true, lacks or fails to disclose other material facts in such a way such as to mislead the listener, viewer, or reader. 
Management shall be entitled to terminate the right of occupancy or lease of any Resident or occupant who violates any portion of this Use and Conduct provision.
These non-disparagement clauses are meant to discourage negative reviews, but those reviews, if truthful, are perhaps the most helpful to others. To avoid any trouble, don’t post anything until you move out. 
Think this should be illegal? In fact, Congress is close to passing legislation that would wipe out any existing ‘gag clauses.’

How to complain online and not get sued

Regardless of what happens with that pending legislation, there are some things you can do to lessen the likelihood that you’ll be sued for what you post online about any type of business.

Consumer Reports suggests you keep the following pointers in mind:

  • Know your state’s law regarding SLAPP suits. Strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP) are designed to threaten you with expensive and time-intensive litigation to deter you from posting a negative review. By knowing your state’s laws, you can understand the parameters of what you legally can and can’t say in your review.
  • Make sure you didn’t sign a confidentiality agreement. While not common, some doctors do stipulate patients sign such an agreement before treatment. RateMDs.com has a ‘Wall of Shame’ of doctors who have adopted this practice. Avoid them at all costs.
  • Stick strictly to the facts with your complaint. Keep it short, simple and factual; nothing more and nothing less.
  • Cool off. Write your complaint out and then take 24 hours to reflect on it before you post. Make sure your vitriol isn’t crowding out the facts in what you’ve written.
  • Realize that your veil of privacy can be pierced. You may think you’re writing a fairly anonymous review, but it is possible that information about your identity, IP address, and location could be subpoenaed at the request of an offended business. The privacy policy of the website where you post your comments isn’t likely to protect you either.
  • Know what to do if you are sued. In the worst case if you are sued, you may be covered by your homeowner’s policy for defamatory statements. Check with your insurer to see.  
  • Remember, it all comes back to sticking strictly to the facts. Never post libelous comments that disparage anyone’s character. That’s the best way to stay out of trouble.

Read more: This is what $1,500 a month in rent gets you in America’s biggest cities

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