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Gotcha Lawsuits & How to Avoid Them

Posted By: Eric Garduño Advocacy News , Virtual Learning Library ,
Gotcha Lawsuits & How to Avoid Them


It important to note that The Apartment Association of Greater Orlando and The Bay Area Apartment Association are not experts in, nor licensed to, provide legal, operational, or medical/epidemiological advice or guidance. Opinions or practices discussed are those of the panelist or presenter only and do not necessarily reflect the position or opinion of AAGO, BAAA, or our affiliated associations.  Nothing in the following program should be construed as comprehensive legal advice.  It is imperative that you consult with your company, corporate counsel, and legal counsel on best practices, protocols, and response.

In partnership with the Bay Area Apartment Association (BAAA), we hosted a webinar, "Gotcha" Lawsuits & How to Avoid Them. A topic of key concern to housing providers, we asked a few of our top industry experts to share their legal and operational knowledge, experience, and if applicable, best practices on the topic.

Meet our Expert Panelists

Prior to taking questions from attendees, each panelist offered their unique insight on the topic (as follows)-

  • Darren Ayoub, Esq., Barfield | McCain: Phone-in Lawsuits 
  • Drew Sorrell, Esq., Lowndes Law: Surf-by Lawsuits
  • Bonnie Smetzer, JMG Realty: Owner/Manager perspective on both lawsuit instances

For those unfamiliar with gotcha lawsuits, these primarily refer to three types of suits: "drive-by", "surf-by, or "phone-in." All of which have since increased throughout the multifamily housing industry. 

  • Phone-in Lawsuits | Criminal Background Screening: These scenarios typically involve an individual calling an apartment community expressing interest in living there. They will then go on to say that they have some sort of criminal background and ask whether or not this would rule them ineligible to apply to live in the community. If the community employee on the other end of the line says yes, I'm sorry we exclude individuals with criminal records, this most often times results in the community receiving a demand letter or lawsuit.
  • Surf-by or Drive-by Lawsuits | ADA and FHA Website Accessibility: These scenarios typically involve a website or page, link, etc., on a website that fails ADA or FHA compliance. This tends to result in a demand letter.

The panelists go on to answer questions including but not limited to the following: 

  • Advice and preventative measures that may prove helpful in avoiding these types of lawsuits altogether. 
  • Example best practices for owners/managers if notified or threatened with one of these lawsuits.
  • Potential implementable technological solutions that increase the accessibility of a website.
  • Examples and best practices of training protocol and procedures for onsite teams in responding to "tester" calls for criminal background screening.

Resources: (Must be logged in to to access NAA resources)




Watch the full webinar