Landlord shames tenants
Click here for Top Ten Discussions. CLICK HERE for Q & A Homepage
Receive Free Rental Owner Updates Email:  
MrLandlord Q & A
Landlord shames tenants (by Orbany [IL]) Apr 15, 2012 12:00 PM
       Landlord shames tenants (by ll [AZ]) Apr 15, 2012 1:04 PM
       Landlord shames tenants (by Reid [KS]) Apr 15, 2012 1:36 PM
       Landlord shames tenants (by Orbany [IL]) Apr 15, 2012 3:33 PM
       Landlord shames tenants (by Roy [AL]) Apr 15, 2012 4:48 PM
       Landlord shames tenants (by Gwen [OH]) Apr 15, 2012 5:17 PM
       Landlord shames tenants (by BRAD 20,000 [IN]) Apr 15, 2012 10:52 PM

Landlord shames tenants (by Orbany [IL]) Posted on: Apr 15, 2012 12:00 PM

This item is posted in today's Chicago Tribune.,0,2652344.column

Landlord shames tenants by posting offenses online

Janet Portman

April 13, 2012

Q: Our landlord has begun posting on the property's website the names of tenants who violate "house rules." For example, people who park illegally or get talked to by management for excessive noise get listed, as do those who pay rent late. He claims it's a way to encourage compliance, and it will make the property a safer and cleaner place to live. I think it's an invasion of privacy. Is it legal?

A: Perhaps your landlord has recently revisited a classic from his childhood, "The Scarlet Letter," and wants to see if websites are as effective as letters sewn onto a dress. Or maybe he's heard about California's new law, which took effect in January, that makes employers who willfully misclassify workers as independent contractors (when they should be classified as employees) put a statement on their company website or in the workplace for a year saying that they violated the law.

Commentators haven't hesitated to call this "public shaming," and it's not new: In Tennessee, drunken driving offenders must pick up trash on the side of the road while wearing a jumpsuit that says "I am a drunk driver."

It's one thing for the legislature to specifically permit or require public shaming for convicted defendants, but can a private business adopt a public shaming strategy of its own, without worrying about breaking a criminal law or civil liability? That depends on how your state would approach the question.

Let's start with whether the landlord has committed a crime. A person whose name ends up on a website or lobby bulletin board might go to the police or prosecutor and complain of harassment. All states have anti-harassment statutes, which make it a crime to act in a way designed to annoy, provoke, threaten or otherwise cause another person emotional distress.

To be guilty of harassment, the offender must specifically intend the results of his actions (the distress). But when you apply this definition to what you've described, you can see that the required intent isn't present: Your landlord is posting the information to deter similar misconduct, not to cause the "victim" distress.

What about a civil action? A claim for defamation comes to mind, but here, too, there's a major problem. Defamation requires the publication of a statement that hurts the subject's reputation, but the statement must be false. As long as the statements are true, there's generally no liability.

Suing for the "intentional infliction of emotional distress" is another possible claim, but there's a problem: The landlord arguably intended only to teach other tenants a lesson, not to pour salt on the wounds of the transgressors.

That leaves us with negligently inflicting emotional distress, but this usually involves distress that follows someone's careless act, such as the pain suffered by a parent who watches a child be injured during a car accident. That's a far cry from embarrassment resulting from a printed statement that you were late paying your rent.

So the unfortunate subjects of your landlord's list may not have legal recourse. But one can't help but wonder about the practical wisdom of the landlord's practice. From a marketing angle, it can't be helping him. Prospective tenants who visit the website may decide to look elsewhere, for fear that their accidental mistakes may set them up for public shaming.

Landlord shames tenants (by ll [AZ]) Posted on: Apr 15, 2012 1:04 PM

Actually in the case of late rent anyway it is a violation of fair credit collection law to publicly post someones name. Like people late on HOA fees for example. --76.90.xx.xx

Landlord shames tenants (by Reid [KS]) Posted on: Apr 15, 2012 1:36 PM

Does this actually serve a Purpose? Does it make Money ? Or is it as I suspect merely a game to show who's The Boss? I may be wrong but it sounds like a waste of time(money) and is like poking a rattle snake with a short stick.

Landlord shames tenants (by Orbany [IL]) Posted on: Apr 15, 2012 3:33 PM

@Reid: Agreed!

Landlord shames tenants (by Roy [AL]) Posted on: Apr 15, 2012 4:48 PM

Have you ever entered a restaurant or convenience store and seen 50 bad checks with NSF stamped all over them posted in plain sight for everyone to see? Is this legal? It does send a message though.

My county has website where everyone arrested for a petty offense in the last 30 days gets their mugshot posted on this website. I went there one day and saw mugshots of two people I knew,..both arrested for public intoxication. Why my county publishes these mugshots is beyond me,...but I do use this website for screening rental applicants.

Landlord shames tenants (by Gwen [OH]) Posted on: Apr 15, 2012 5:17 PM

our HOA does this all the time in the subdivison newsletter. Mentions the guilty party by lot number only. Got us for not mowing the lawn as soon as we movwed in. This is why I call them the grass nazis.

Landlord shames tenants (by BRAD 20,000 [IN]) Posted on: Apr 15, 2012 10:52 PM

Seems like a lot of effort and bad publicity to me.

How about the reverse: "Resident Honor Roll - we congratulate the following residents for clean records:___"

Subject: RE: Landlord shames tenants
Your Name:
Your State:

Landlord shames tenants
Would you like to be notified via email when somebody replies to this thread?
If so, you must include your valid email address here. Do not add your address more than once per thread/subject. By entering your email address here, you agree to receive notification from every time anyone replies to "this" thread. You will receive response notifications for up to one week following the original post. Your email address will not be visible to readers.
Email Address: