What responsibilities does a landlord have in regards to a tenant and confidentiality?

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What responsibilities does a landlord have in regards to a tenant and confidentiality?

I am very behind on rent. My landlord has plenty of reason to begin an eviction process but is it legal for him to go around telling everyone that lives in our small town what is going on with our non-payment of rent and the fact that he is going to evict us? As mentioned, it’s a small town, both my husband and I work here, and he has begun telling everyone who will listen that we haven’t paid, and that we’re horrible tenants and that he’s going to evict us. Isn’t there some kind of law that protects our privacy?

Asked on September 29, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Michigan

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

No, there is in fact no law protecting your privacy in this regards:  your landlord is allowed to tell people that you haven't paid the rent, that he intends to evict you, and that you are horrible tenants.

The landlord cannot defame you, without incurring liability. However, defamation is fairly narrowly defined: defamation is only the making of untrue factual asssertions or statements that damage a person's reputation. Unfortunately, true facts, no matter how damaging,  are not defamation, so if it's true that you did not pay the rent he says you didn't pay, that is not defamation. Also, opinions are not defamation, so saying you are a "horrible tenant," which is an opinion is not defamation. And disclosing that he is or intends to evict you, as long as that statememt is true when made, is also not defamation.


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