Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Landlord May Be Liable When A Tenant's Facebook Harassment Leads To A Rape

Forbes - If you’re a landlord, what should you do if you learn that a resident is harassing another tenant on Facebook or other social media websites? If your answer is “nothing,” you might be making a mistake, as illustrated by a recent case from an Ohio appellate court.

The case involves the interactions between Haynes, the live-in boyfriend of Schmidt (who was on the lease, while Haynes wasn’t), and Lindsay, another tenant who lived in the apartment right directly above. Lindsay repeatedly complained about the noise coming from Schmidt’s apartment, and in response Lindsay alleged that Schmidt and Haynes retaliated in a variety of ways, including loudly banging on her door and screaming at her. Subsequently, Lindsay received a pseudonymous message at her Facebook account asking her to have sex and linking to a pornographic video depicting people who looked similar to Lindsay and Haynes. In response to Lindsay’s repeated questions, Haynes didn’t admit to being the author of the Facebook messages, but Lindsay had numerous reasons to believe it was him.

Lindsay provided the Facebook transcript to the landlord and allegedly asked to be released from her lease because she feared Haynes. Instead, the landlord recommended she contact the police (which she did) and moved her to another apartment in the complex. The landlord also allegedly told Haynes and Schmidt that it was moving Lindsay and warned them to leave Lindsay alone. The landlord discovered Haynes wasn’t on the lease and told him he’d have to leave. Haynes tried to get onto the lease but his credit wasn’t approved, so the landlord didn’t add him to the lease but also didn’t evict him.

A few days after Lindsay’s relocation, Haynes raped Lindsay in her new apartment. He was convicted of this crime and received a 9 year jail sentence. Lindsay then sued the landlord for mishandling the situation.   More