Tweeting for Trouble

Here is the scenario: Large rental company, unhappy tenant.  Tenant Tweets that the rental company does not have a problem with its tenants sleeping in moldy apartments. Large  company sues because the tenant has made defamatory statements and permanently injured its reputation by passing this statement around the internet.

This is exactly the kind of statement that can get you/us/me into a whole host of trouble.  The Tweet (with the name removed to protect me from similar trouble) read, "Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? XXXX XXX thinks it's okay."

In the days before social media, this Tweeter would have called Mom, Dad, Best Friend or other to vent about the situation. Mom, Dad, Best Friend or other would have provided advice and sympathy and that would have been the end of it.

Today, the feeling of anonymity that accompanies typing a sentence in to your phone and hitting SEND is a facade. The very nature of Tweeter is to send your message out to the Public--and the world.

This is not a post about this particular situation (and I deliberately left out the link to the article because I doubt either party needs any more negative publicity swirling around).  It is a gentle reminder that Twitter, Facebook and even ActiveRain are very public venues and while the act may seem simplistic, the outcome can be quite significant.

So next time you feel like venting, and it must be on Twitter or another social media platform, don't name names (or companies). Really.

Better yet, give your Mom a call...


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Comment balloon 56 commentsHolly Weatherwax • July 30 2009 10:03AM


LOL I like it...give your mom a call! 



Posted by Kathleen Cooper, Sposato Realty Group - Broker Owner (Kathleen Cooper, Sposato Realty Group) over 9 years ago

As always, location, location, location.

Posted by Tim Lorenz, 949 874-2247 (TIM LORENZ - Elite Home Sales Team) over 9 years ago

Hi Holly, you are so right about sending your thoughts out on the Internet. Gosh, you realllllly have to be careful, good post.

Posted by Rebecca Gaujot, Realtor®, Lewisburg WV, the go to agent for all real estate (Vision Quest Realty, Martha Hilton, Broker) over 9 years ago

Holly, this is a very good point.  People should realize that social networks may not be that anonymous and damaging comments could get them sued for libel and slander.

Posted by Silvia Dukes PA, Broker Associate, CRS, CIPS, SRES, Florida Waterfront and Country Club Living (Tropic Shores Realty - Ich spreche Deutsch!) over 9 years ago

Great post!  Modern technology has changed every area of life and how we live it.  We can not be too careful regarding how we use the internet.

Posted by Mary Reich (Boise Valley Real Estate Group) over 9 years ago

I guess if one is going to give them heck it better not be on the Internet...Hard to take back an email!

Posted by Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty, Fifteen Years Experience in Brevard County (Bucci Realty, Inc.) over 9 years ago

Poor mom.... She has to hear all my whining...

Posted by Bob Bloom (Keller Williams Realty) over 9 years ago

What is a phone? You mean my "Texter"? That's what they should call them these days. Great reminder - thanks.

Posted by Stephen Kappre, Helping You Home (KW Hometown) over 9 years ago

I thank you , I will think about what I say. It seems we sue for everything anymore.

Posted by Terri Onigkeit, GRI (Keller Williams of Northern Colorado) over 9 years ago

Holly - I have a post about this topic that I have been considered writing.  I think the bigger lesson here is actually for the company.  They got a ridiculous amount of bad publicity from suing this woman, and her legal fees will be covered by someone who wants to take advantage of the exposure.  This company got THOUSANDS of negative tweets about them in a few hours' time on Tuesday.

Posted by Jason Crouch, Broker - Austin Texas Real Estate (512-796-7653) (Austin Texas Homes, LLC) over 9 years ago

It is all about location. Thanks for sharing your Tweet secrets with us.

Posted by Harry F. D'Elia, Investor , Mentor, GRI, Radio, CIPS, REOs, ABR (Real Estate and Beyond, LLC) over 9 years ago

I'm really curious to see how this case plays out. The social media venues have blurred the lines between public and private. One could argue that both Twitter and Facebook are private, since one must be a registered user and "following" is permission based.

Posted by Sandy Nelson, your Olympia area Realtor (Riley Jackson Real Estate Inc.) over 9 years ago


The world is getting smaller as this proves, we can make a comment on the internet and then most of the world seems to know.  I am sure this person really wishes they had taken your advice and called their Mum.


Posted by Sharon Senger, Licensed Transaction Coordinator (tcDocs) over 9 years ago

Interesting juxtaposition of two Twitter posts on the ActiveRain dashboard.

Dawn vs this blog

Dawn Tweets:

Ken Lewis, please help!!! BOA Loan #027755283 has not been resolved after 7 months. (New approach since we are desperate!)

and it got results. 

Ken Lewis and Bank of America must be more benevolent than the Chicago leasing company.

Of course Dawn can document the 7 months so that could not be libel.

Wondering would have venting to Mom have done as much good? 

The Sun Times mentioned the name of the leasing company and the name of the tenant... Mashable did too.  That's where I first read about it was that just yesterday.... 

I thought the negative impact of the notoriety for suing over a tweet is probably going to  outweigh any benefit they are going to get out of their lawsuit. 

The brand name sucks websites have a right to free speech as I understand it.  Is there something about 140 characters that will allow the leasing company to prevail?  Interesting to watch.


Posted by Maureen McCabe, Columbus Ohio Real Estate (HER Realtors) over 9 years ago

Hi Holly - yes I agree, I think the more mature folks understand the venue and the do's and don'ts.  It was only  a matter of time before some lawsuit popped out as a result of tweets - it had to happen so we'll see how it all goes.  I for one don't pay a lot of attention to the negative folks. Way to busy for that stuff.

Posted by Anna Banana Kruchten CRB, CRS 602-380-4886, Arizona's Top Banana! (Phoenix Property Shoppe) over 9 years ago

This will be fun to watch, Maureen. "Choose your enemies wisely." Great sayings are great because they are tried and true. Everyone should really think twice before hitting that "send" button. Our Tweets and status reach many more people than we realize at the time. Who do you NOT want to see your thoughts? Thanks Holly, for some great thinking material!

Posted by David M. Childress, I would love to be your Realtor® in Akron Ohio! (Howard Hanna Real Estate Services) over 9 years ago

I try to not name company names, but sometimes, it's necessary!  I blogged about a certain home warranty company and how bad they were and how they treated us, and I still get calls and emails a few times a year from people thanking me for posting what happened.  The company tried to stop me, but it was part of the lawsuit that I could blab about it.

Posted by Donna Harris, Realtor,Mediator,Ombudsman,Property Tax Arbitrator (Donna Homes, powered by JPAR - over 9 years ago

Holly - I'm with Jason on this issue.  The company had the opportunity to either ignore this (very few people saw this) or through proper PR, work it to their advantage.  Suing the individual simply drew way more attention to the issue they didn't want on Twitter in the first place...  huh??

Posted by Bill Risser, Fidelity National Title - Tampa District (Fidelity National Title) over 9 years ago

It's easy and common to forget that everything you post (even members only) can be found by people you may not want reading it.  Great example here.

Posted by Ryan Hukill - Edmond, Realtor, Team Lead (ShowMeOKC Real Estate Pros of KW Elite) over 9 years ago

Her wording is the worst part. Saying they do not care when that is subjective. Had she stated she has been asking them to take care of a mold situation in a bedroom for X months without results she may have been fine. Still, she needed to be able to back up the allegation. Nothing they can sue over AND WIN if FACTS are presented. Nothing can stop anyone from filing a suit, even one they know they will lose.

Posted by John Rakoci, North Myrtle Beach Coastal Carolinas (Eagle Realty) over 9 years ago

Hi Holly. I have yet to Tweet about a company or service in a negative way. However I have read that it helped resolved some issues for some.

Posted by Lana Robbins Realtor ® Licensed Real Estate Broker, Licensed in Florida and Washington (Aloha Kai Real Estate) over 9 years ago

Twitter is the most Wiki way to reach the public. When posting be careful out there, it's a jungle.

Posted by Joe Pryor, REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties (The Virtual Real Estate Team) over 9 years ago

Hey Holly, Good advice! We do need to be careful what we put on the Internet!

Have a great day,

Anne Rains

Posted by The Rains Team, A higher standard in real estate (Keller Williams Realty Atlanta Partners) over 9 years ago

THe power of the internet the good the bad and the ugly. 

Posted by SacramentoCommercialLoans Bank Turn downs welcomed, Quick closings 916-847-7212 (Sacramento commercial loans) over 9 years ago

The proper route of action would have been for the tenant to file a complaint in district court and once he received a stay from the court pay his rent into escrow until the mold issue was remedied.  Since all court actions are published in local papers and are subject to public domain it would have had an even larger impact on the leasing company and less of an impact on the tenant.

Posted by June Piper-Brandon, Piecing Dreams One Home at a Time (The Traczyk Team at Remax New Beginnings ) over 9 years ago

The proper route of action would have been for the tenant to file a complaint in district court and once he received a stay from the court pay his rent into escrow until the mold issue was remedied.  Since all court actions are published in local papers and are subject to public domain it would have had an even larger impact on the leasing company and less of an impact on the tenant.

Posted by June Piper-Brandon, Piecing Dreams One Home at a Time (The Traczyk Team at Remax New Beginnings ) over 9 years ago

Like my mother used to say, "Keep your words soft & sweet for some day you may have to eat them!"

Posted by David L. Montgomery, David L. Montgomery (MULAMONT REALTY, LLC) over 9 years ago

It is something to think that in today's world we can air our complaints & millions of people are instantly alerted!

Posted by Dan Magstadt (Paramount Residential Mortgage Group, Inc) over 9 years ago

Thank God I don't know how to use Twitter.  Good post.

Posted by Claire Record (Keller Williams Realty--Boerne Hill Country) over 9 years ago

Thanks for the reminder ! David I like your Mom's quote !

Posted by Michael J. Perry, Lancaster, PA Relo Specialist (KW Elite ) over 9 years ago

Good advice, Holly.  The same reason you never want to send a letter while you're mad - wait til you've slept on it - it may look different in the morning!

Posted by Brian Schulman, Lancaster County PA RealEstate Expert 717-951-5552 (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Lancaster PA) over 9 years ago

I have always made it a practice to SAVE before I send an angry email or anything, then come back to it in an hour and see if it feels right.  Then if its worth the lawsuit send it :-)

Posted by Ricky Khamis, NMLS 173141 | CADOC 173141 - 480-339-1565 (Amerifirst Financial, Inc.) over 9 years ago

A rep from the company in question actually said “We’re a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organization”.  Sorry, but I really don't think they have a leg to stand on with this and the suit will end of being dropped.

Posted by Erin Golding (Hallmark Sotheby's International Realty Hopkinton, MA) over 9 years ago

Please keep us apprised as the case unfolds. I'd like to follow this and know how it plays out...I'm not convinced it's defamation. Isn't it only defamation when it's untrue?

Posted by Christianne O'Malley, Exceptional Service - Delivering Results in Reno! (RE/MAX Realty Affiliates) over 9 years ago

It will be interesting to see how the case unfolds...anyone can sue, but the questions is does the suit have merit?  There are many websites dedicated for people to vent there frustrations/experience with companies.  Before the internet, newspapers had Editorials or exposes...


Posted by Dora & Vincent Kwok, CNE - Chandler, Arizona Real Estate (HomeSmart Real Estate) over 9 years ago

Even if the tenant does prevail - it is such a nuisance to go through that misery - better to find a less inflamatory platform to complain - but how sad that venting now gets you sued. Argh!

Posted by Lise Howe, Assoc. Broker and Attorney Licensed in DC, MD, VA, (Keller Williams Capital Properties) over 9 years ago

I saw that. It was pretty amazing how fast that spread around the internet. Should be interesting to watch.

Posted by Joel Weihe (Realty World Wichita) over 9 years ago

I agree with Lise, "how sad that venting now gets you sued."  I'm curious of the outcome of this case.

Posted by Michelle Gibson, REALTOR (Hansen Real Estate Group Inc. ) over 9 years ago

If the rental company had any sense they would have immediately resolved the problem and asked the tenant to post it had been resolved!! But yes, you do have to be careful what and where you post! Thanks for the story!

Posted by Eileen Begley, Monterey Real Estate (Coldwell Banker, DelMonte) over 9 years ago

Thanks for all your comments...can't address each one, but a couple of things I would like to add:

I agree that just because someone brings a suit doesn't mean the suit has merit--but it sure can waste your time and money! It is best to avoid situations that are likely to put you on the defensive side of a suit.

There is another message in this  for all of us as business people. As Jason mentioned, someone could do the same thing to us, too, and quickly damage our reputations. The only real protection for this is to do your best and try to resolve issues before they become problems.

I love your Mom's quote, David!

The best thing to do if you feel like venting, and must do it in a public forum, is write it down, walk away and re-assess when you are feeling calmer--before you post it.

Of course, there is the rare case when a Tweet can force an issue to be resolved, such as the situation that Maureen mentioned.

Finally, someone wrote and let me know that it is possible to get a rider on your homeowners policy that protects you from libel and slander suits. If you tend to 'post before you think' or don't like to 'edit' yourself, this might be something to consider.


Posted by Holly Weatherwax, A Great Real Estate Experience ( Associate Broker, Momentum Realty) over 9 years ago

Times are changing. To tweet or post is now the same as putting it on the front page of the paper. Be carefull what you say. Remember, if it's OK for you to rant about another then it's OK for them to rant about you.

Posted by Dayne Riddle (Coldwell Banker Select Professionals) over 9 years ago

I think I take the opposite view of the situation.  It used to be that a company could treat a client/customer/tenant any way they wanted and get away with it because it was only going to go as far as the folks you could call.  With platforms like Twitter, Facebook, even blogs like this, the playing field is a bit more level.  I've heard and read stories of people who had problems corrected and were contacted by a company because an unhappy customer tweeted about their experience.  I'm all for any additional consumer tools.

Posted by Julie Cleland (Prudential California Realty) over 9 years ago

Hehe... Thanks for the reminder.

Posted by Vanna Siackhasone, Anchorage Real Estate 907-720-4663 (Real Estate Brokers of Alaska 907-720-4663) over 9 years ago

I've had a Twitter account for quite some time but haven't used it much because of the fact that I don't want to impulsively post something that I'll regret later. So my Tweets end up sounding very vanilla and i sometimes wonder why people would even bother reading them. :)  I use Twitter more as an event announcement than an emotional journal of the day. I think as professionals we just have to be extra careful not to give too much information because this stuff is viral!

Posted by Allison Jung, Desert Homes in Las Vegas and Henderson (Universal Realty, Inc.) over 9 years ago

Seems like just using good judgment is what is called for .

Posted by Bob & Carolin Benjamin, East Phoenix Arizona Homes (Benjamin Realty LLC) over 9 years ago

Did you know that they have Radon Health Mines in Montana and that some people think it cures cancer?  I believe that one too! 

Posted by Carol Pease, CRS, Broker-Associate 512-721-6320 (JP & Associates Realtors) over 9 years ago

This reminds me of the KB Homes scandal where instead of addressing the building issues and providing customer service they tried to shut the home owners up - all it got them was some very angry home owners with very loud voices - it attracted the media and their reputation instantly went down the drain.

Your right - we're on the internet and our words will follow us forever, good or bad. But let's be honest you can get sued over anything!!!! The McDonald's coffee suit showed us that.

And we don't know - they may have filed a complaint- they may have done everything in the world and it got them no where. I find it interesting that as soon as they "went public" they got the attention of the company in a BIG way -if the company could rally their lawyers this quickly, where were they when this person was trying to get his mold taken care of?

Posted by Malita Jones, Austin Texas Home Sales (Sky Realty, Inc.- over 9 years ago

You can still vent, and still Tweet . . . just don't name names.  But I thought if it was TRUTHFUL it won't meet the test of libel or slanderous in nature.  Lies hurt.  But the truth is the truth.  WAS there mold in the apartment? 


Posted by Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED (RETIRED / State License is Inactive) over 9 years ago

People sometimes forget the internet is OUT THERE for everyone, and the consequenses that may bring later to an agent.

Posted by Erica Ramus, MRE, Schuylkill County PA Real Estate (Erica Ramus - Ramus Realty Group - Pottsville, PA ) over 9 years ago

I operate by the rule "never put anything in writing unless its a offer", usually if I'm angry and I type an email, I'll wait 24 hours before I hit send..  I find that I never end up hitting send!

Posted by Doug Leugers, Doug Leugers Real Estate Advisors (Leugers Real Estate Experts) over 9 years ago

On the flip side, some companies are monitoring Twitter and FIXING the issues that their customers bring up. 

And yes, one needs to be careful about their Tweets... they need to be factual.

Posted by Lane Bailey, Realtor & Car Guy (Century 21 Results Realty) over 9 years ago

Hi Holly -- Solid advice.  I used to live in the Lakeport Cluster on Lake Thoreau -- small world!

Posted by Chris Olsen, Broker Owner Cleveland Ohio Real Estate (Olsen Ziegler Realty) over 9 years ago

Hi Holly - I agree - even though we have free speech, it's risky to be negative on twitter. I have done it and I will continue to speak my mind, but I am very aware that while most tweets are buried, at any time they can turn into worldwide messages with consequences. Very good post and food for thought.

Posted by Dawn Maloney, 330-990-4236 Hudson & Northeastern Ohio (RE/MAX Haven - Northeast Ohio Real Estate Specialist) over 9 years ago

I do think there are times for public vents.  But I don't use names.  Although if I make an accusation... I usually have great documentation to back it up.   But in theroy I agree with you post.  If you must use the name... call your mom.

Posted by Tammy Lankford,, Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville (Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668) over 9 years ago

Mom usually gets the call anyway, Holly.  LOL.  But, I think you have a very good point.  Although, sometimes some companies/people/situations need to be called to the carpet.  Most of the time, though, it's best to leave out the names.

Posted by Heather Chavez, Real Estate Virtual, Assistant (928) 692-3235 (Second Self Virtual Assistance) over 9 years ago

I agree that we need to be careful what we put online. That includes comments on AR.

Posted by Darrell Walters (W. Darrell Walters) over 9 years ago

This blog does not allow anonymous comments