HOW (NOT) TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE
CAN AN APARTMENT COMPLEX FINE YOU FOR A BAD REVIEW?
No. But an apartment complex near Orlando is trying that bold strategy anyway. Not only is their contract a violation of the unwritten rules of common sense, it is likely also a violation of Florida’s landlord-tenant laws. As a side note, I’ve written about this kind of dumb tactic before.
Here’s how Section 83.64 of the Florida Statutes sets it out. I’ve bolded the relevant portions:
83.64 Retaliatory conduct.
(1) It is unlawful for a landlord to discriminatorily increase a tenant’s rent or decrease services to a tenant, or to bring or threaten to bring an action for possession or other civil action, primarily because the landlord is retaliating against the tenant. In order for the tenant to raise the defense of retaliatory conduct, the tenant must have acted in good faith. Examples of conduct for which the landlord may not retaliate include, but are not limited to, situations where:
(a) The tenant has complained to a governmental agency charged with responsibility for enforcement of a building, housing, or health code of a suspected violation applicable to the premises;
(b) The tenant has organized, encouraged, or participated in a tenant organization;
(c) The tenant has complained to the landlord pursuant to s. 83.56(1);
(d) The tenant is a servicemember who has terminated a rental agreement pursuant to s. 83.682;
(e) The tenant has paid rent to a condominium, cooperative, or homeowners’ association after demand from the association in order to pay the landlord’s obligation to the association; or
(f) The tenant has exercised his or her rights under local, state, or federal fair housing laws.
Pretty sure a court would find that a landlord trying to fine a tenant for an online review would fall under this provision. Also, as the article linked above points out, the penalty for an online review is also likely a violation of state and federal unfair trade practices laws.
So how is the apartment complex fairing since trying their tactic? The result is as predictable as you’d expect.