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Landlord-tenant disputes: online reviews could spark litigation

Disputes between landlords and their tenants are as old as time (well, at least it feels that way). Two major factors that can cause these dipsutes are rent issues (either nonpayment by the tenant or the alteration of rent by a landlord) and the general conditions of the real estate the tenant occupies (and the landlord is responsible for).

Particularly in New York -- city or state -- rent issues can be complex, frustrating and very upsetting. This is because there are complicated rules regarding rent control and rent stabilization.

But the general condition of the building can be a sensitive topic that sparks divisive behavior and anger amongst landlords and tenants. This is nothing new; but what is relatively new is the availability of the internet, which allows tenants to vent their frustrations for the whole world to see.

Stirring the pot in a landlord-tenant dispute, regardless of what side you are on, rarely does any good. If the situation is minor and the two parties can work it out through constructive conversations, then both sides would be wise to remain calm and civil so as to work their way to a compromise. However, if things are bad enough that it warrants legal action, then the landlord or tenant needs to consult an attorney to deal with the matter.

So where do online reviews come in to the equation? A recent case saw a tenant sued for libel and defamation by his former landlord after the tenant in question posted a harsh critique on the website Yelp. The post accused the landlord of "contributing" to the deaths of three tenants, and that the landlord was a "sociopathic narcissist" who made the lives of tenants "hell."

The case could be a major moment in landlord-tenant litigation, at least in terms of posting things online. Again, it is best to proceed with caution and civility when you are dealing with an angry tenant or landlord. Taking a level-headed approach to the dispute could see it resolved peacefully.

Source: AOL Real Estate, "Former Tenant's Critical Yelp Review Might Be Libelous, Court Rules," Sheree R. Curry, Aug. 5, 2013

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