LA Renters, Can You Be Sued Over A Yelp Review?
The answer is yes. Many of you have seen Yelp reviews of Art Deco Apartments. We have 600 tenants and sometimes we have good reviews, and sometimes we have bad reviews – kind of like life. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. According to attorney Dale Alberstone, one San Fransisco renter was found guilty of an action of defamation when his Yelp review crossed the line from opinion to slander:
“Bently Reserve vs. Papaliolios involved a limited partnership landlord which had owned an apartment building in theSan Francisco area since March 2005. For all intents and purposes, the partnership was owned by a husband and wife who took up residence in penthousesuite 1001 at the complex.
The tenant (“Papaliolios”) moved into the building in 2004. After three years of contentious and litigious relations between him and the landlord from 2005 to 2008, Papaliolios moved out.
Four years later, the former tenant using the pseudonym “Sal R.” (his real name was Andreas G. Papaliolios), posted a scathing review of the apartment building on Yelp. Yelp is a social media website that collects consumer reviews of businesses.
Portions of the tenant’s postings are set forth in the left column below, and the actual evidence, i.e., the true facts as alleged in the landlord’s declaration, are set forth in the right column:
“The building is newly owned
and occupied by a sociopathic narcissist.”
“The new owners’ noise, intrusions, and other abhorrent behaviors likely contributed to the death of three tenants, Pat, Mary & John.”
“The new owners’ noise, intrusions, and other abhorrent behaviors likely contributed to the departure of eight more of the 16 mostly-long-term tenants who lived in the building when the new owners moved in units 1001, 902, 802, 801, 702, 701, 602, 502 in very short order.”
“They have sought evictions of 6 of those long-term tenants, even though rent was paid-in-full, and those tenants bothered nobody.”
“They evicted the occupants of unit #902.”
“They cleared-out all the upper-floor units, so they could charge higher rents.”
Landlord’s Declaration Evidence
There is no such medical diagnosis for the husband or his wife.
Mary and John are alive, while Pat died
in 2008 of pneumonia and cancer.
Exit interviews did not reveal tenants leaving for these reasons: The tenants in 801 and 802 continue to reside in their apartments; the tenants in 1001 agreed to move to unit 702 in 2005 when husband and wife expressed interest in residing in unit 1001. Then those tenants vacated 702 in 2006 to move to the East Coast; the tenants in 902 stayed until 2009; the tenants in 602 and 502 stayed until 2007; and Papaliolios rented 701 and stayed until 2008.
Plaintiffs did not seek to evict any tenant except Papaliolios, and that proceeding did not result in his eviction (he left on his own).
There was no eviction of the occupants of unit 902.
Of the tenants on floors 8, 9, and 10, only the tenants of 902 vacated after an attempt to raise rent.
The landlord filed a lawsuit for defamation against his former tenant. Papaliolios then filed a Motion to Dismiss the case arguing that his posting contained mere expressions of opinion, rather than actionable statements of false facts.”
The court’s decision and the rest of the article can be found here: http://www.aoausa.com/magazine/?p=1557