My landlord lives in the building and continuously talks about our habits to other tenants and neighbors. While he voices his thoughts to everyone else, he does not speak to us. When we try to knock on his door to talk, he does not answer. He only has something to say, in passing, to my husband, not me, if another tenant is around. Because another tenant is around, my husband won't speak to him then. The other tenants are how we know he is speaking about us. Also when we first moved in, he thought he could gossip to us about them, but I put a stop to that immediately, knowing if he talked about them, he would talk about us. This is how I know he is capable of gossip. What can we do?
Yes. Saying true things is protected by the 1st Amendment. Unless he's learned them through some sort of privileged communication (like, he's a lawyer and learned these things in the scope of his employment), there's not a whole lot you can do to stop him.
Gossip is not against the law. There is an area of law called "slander" or "defamatory speech" but this is extremely difficult to prove, and there must be a demonstration of damages, namely an injury to your reputation that causes a loss of jobs, friends, etc.
The information provided here should not be construed to be formal legal advice. The provision of this general advice does not create a lawyer-client relationship. Persons with legal questions are encouraged to seek independent counsel for advice regarding their individual legal issues.
Generally speaking, truth is an absolute defense to any defamation claim, whether it's slander, libel or false light. What you're describing isn't really much other than the guy sharing his own observations of what your habits are. While that's plenty intrusive and obnoxious, it isn't illegal in any way, shape or form to pass along such comments. So, as far as what you can do, finding another place to live is probably your only hope. There's no legal cork that you can use to stifle his commentary.
Please be sure to mark the best answer to your question. My answers are general and do not form an attorney-client relationship. I'm happy to talk to prospective clients in my areas of concentration and geographical location.
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