No Pets, No Parties, No Bad Yelp Reviews

No Pets, No Parties, No Bad Yelp Reviews

Apartment complex dwellers know well that residential management have the ability to exert control over the presence of pets, noise level, parking and more. One apartment complex attempted to take that control to another level: social media. In short: If a tenant submitted a negative review or commentary online, he or she could be subject to a $10,000 fine.

A tenant at an Orlando, Florida, complex contacted Ars Technica about the social media addendum that management had included in his lease. The introductory paragraph to the addendum expressed that it was necessary to include it because of the “growing trend … where tenants will post unjustified and defamatory reviews regarding an apartment complex in an attempt to negotiate lower rent payments, or otherwise seek concessions from a landlord.”

The social media addendum states:

– “Applicant shall not post negative commentary or reviews on Yelp!, Apartment Ratings, Facebook, or any other website or Internet-based publication or blog.”

– If there is a “breach,” the renter will be liable to pay the owner a $10,000 fine.

– “Applicant hereby assigns and transfers to Owner any and all rights … in any and all written or photographic works regarding the Owner, the Unit, the property, or the apartments.”

In 2014, the tenant refused to sign the addendum and asked management to remove it. He received no further word. In 2015, the addendum appeared again, and once again he refused to sign it. When management was contacted by Ars about the matter, they claimed the “addendum was put into place by a previous general partner” and was now “voided” for all residents. According to the tenant, the addendum continues to be included in lease material.

Santa Clara University Law Professor Eric Goldman shared with Ars that such a contract is not only unenforceable, but also it could expose anyone promulgating it to legal repercussions. He adds:

“It would be a terrible idea to enforce this in court. A judge is going to shred it.”

Perhaps the complex will consider doing the same before attaching the addendum to the next batch of leases.

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