What is a landlord’s obligation if they learn that a resident is harassing another tenant on Facebook or other social media websites? A recent case from an Ohio appellate court, reported by Eric Goldman of Forbes, illustrates the pitfalls of this situation.
The case involves the interactions between Mr. Haynes, the live-in boyfriend of Ms. Schmidt (who was on the lease, while Haynes was not), and Lindsay, another tenant who lived in the apartment right directly above. Lindsay repeatedly complained about the noise coming from Schmidt’s apartment, and alleged that Schmidt and Haynes retaliated for her complaints in a variety of ways, including loudly banging on her door and screaming at her. Subsequently, Lindsay received a message on 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 did not admit to authoring the Facebook messages, but Lindsay believed he had.
Lindsay showed the Facebook transcript to her landlord and 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 same complex. The landlord also allegedly told Haynes and Schmidt that Lindsay was moving and warned them to leave her alone. The landlord discovered Haynes was not on the lease and told him he would 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. It also, however, did not evict him.