This topic contains 13 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by scotlandx(from NSW) 1 week ago.

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  • #38743
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    long time tenant
    Flatchatter
    (from NSW)

    Hi there,

    Apologies in advance if this has been covered already somewhere else in the forum.. I’m thinking of launching a residential property review website for past residents (e.g. tenants) to provide reviews on properties they have lived in. 

    The website would allow the past resident to publish their review against a specific property for the public to read. 

    I’m trying to get a sense of whether or not past residents would post a review on my website. 

    If you have experienced frustration as a past resident at some point in time I am speaking to you. Or perhaps you enjoyed where you lived and want to let others know how good the property/neighbourhood/Real-estate agency/Strata company was.

    Can you please let me know if you would or would not post a review on the website I wish to develop? The review would take between 2 – 5 min to complete from start to finish.

    Many thanks

    #38788
    Jimmy-T
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster

    I hope your legal insurance against defamation cases is up to par.

    #38793
    Sir Humphrey
    Sir Humphrey
    Strataguru

    I wonder how restaurant and holiday accomodation review sites deal with defamation risk. I could submit all sorts of unjustified criticism of my last holiday destination or meal. Would the website publisher be held liable? How do they avoid being held liable?

    #40433
    Avatar
    Question
    Flatchatter

    I doubt you could sue a review site, otherwise all the big companies would be sueing every big review site which will inevitably have bad reviews of their products.

    I suspect that it would be up to the company to prove the reviews are false and then request the review site to take them down, and only if the review site refuses, they would be liable for a suit. Or if the reviews were used to defame a person specifically (e.g. by claiming a manager was a rapist or whatever).

    Im totally all for some property review site, I have been renting for the past few years and dealing with dodgy properties/agents/landlords have been extremely frustrating.

    #40463
    Jimmy-T
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster

    Question wrote:

    I doubt you could sue a review site, otherwise all the big companies would be sueing every big review site …

    Where do you get that idea? You’ve clearly forgotten the case from several years ago when the owner of a Sydney restaurant successfully sued the author of a review in the SMH that said his lobster was “inedible” or something like that, which the court regarded as a statement of fact rather than opinion.

    Or, more recently, how about this story from the USA? Or this one, closer to home.

    The reason big companies don’t sue big websites for negative reviews may be that there could be no net gain, they will probably look like bullies and it just extends the life and reach of the original complaint.

    But we’re not talking about big websites and big companies.  We are discussing fledgling websites that could see their entire working capital tied up in a law suit brought by an entity they have rightly or wrongly criticised.

    There is no right to free speech in Australia, at least not enshrined in our constitution.  And that means a negative review is subject to potential challenge in the courts with each case decided on its merits.

    It would not be up to the defamed company to prove the claims were false – it would be up to the review website to prove they were true and were not motivated by malice as well as being in the public interest.

    That’s a pretty high bar to reach … and probably explains why there isn’t any such website operating on a significant scale in Australia right now.

    #40578
    Avatar
    David Ng
    Flatchatter

    And when the owner responds with details about how bad the tenant was what will you publish?

     

    After all a chance to rebut a bad review is only fair. With a recent discussion and podcast here on Flat-Chat about needing a licence to live in strata if the tenant lost their licence and decided that their retribution was to submit a false or biased review then the sparks would fly.

     

    Remember, what goes around, comes around.

    #40608
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    Andy
    Flatchatter

    There is a difference between the person/company providing the website to provide a review (merely a platform of expression) and the person providing the review.

    The website provider won’t be subject to defamation proceedings only the reviewer.

    #40610
    Avatar
    MilennialZero
    Flatchatter

    Not only is it a great idea, it’s an idea whose time has come, and if you don’t do it — someone else will — so it’s an inevitable idea.

    Don’t be dissuaded by people telling you that you will be sued by lawyers for defamation. You won’t. But you will be annoying a lot of vested interests, and they may seek to bully and intimidate you. If that happens, you are actually proving the value of the forum you will create. Freedom of speech is being degraded on a daily basis by our government in Australia, but it’s still there.

    You will, of course, want to inspect and assess posts before they are published on the website.

    You’ll obviously want to mandate very rigorous and explicit rules and guidelines for what may be posted — and what kind of content will be deleted.

    We are owners-occupiers in an apartment and own another apartment. We would be happy to post reviews. Happily, I think our reviews would mainly be constructive and positive.

    Renters could post reviews of the complex they live in. Noise, maintenance, rubbish collection, leaks, etc.

    Owners could post reviews of the same — they could also post assessments of the performance of the owners corporation executive committee, and the strata title management company used to manage the facility.

    You may need to decide whether you want real estate agents posting reviews.

    You may want to decide whether you want to allow ‘replies’ to review posts. Those tend to get a bit out of hand, but it’s social media, so not allowing replies reduces engagement value.

    Good luck.

    #40678
    Jimmy-T
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster

    Andy wrote:

    The website provider won’t be subject to defamation proceedings only the reviewer.

    And you know this, how? Have you heard about how Buzzfeed had to pay out on defamation against Emma Husar?

    Here are some facts:

    There is no right to free speech enshrined in any law or in the constitution of Australia.

    There is no clear legislation about how defamation works in the case of internet forums where people express their opinions.

    However, we know that the defences that exist in the law include public interest and absence of malice.  We also know that you can’t legally defame a business … unless your comments affect their business in a negative way.

    So if someone has, say, a long-running dispute with their building manager, and then goes on the review website and accuses the building manager’s company of something that might affect their ability to get new business, do you think that business is going to sit quietly and not respond?

    How likely is this? Have a look at websites like Tripadvisor where reviews are closely monitored to make sure that reviewers are not accusing hotels and restaurants of dishonesty, fraudulent behaviour or anything else that could be judged defamatory.

    If a review and rating website can achieve  a critical mass of traffic where attacks on it were seen as attacks on the strata community, and had enough financial backing to monitor, filter and and if necessary censor potentially defamatory material, it might get away with it.  Otherwise they are walking on thin ice.

    I say again, there is no legal right to free speech in Australia.  There are conventions and norms that allow us to speak our minds but they are no guarantees.

    And be sure of this, if a person or company feels they have been defamed, they aren’t going to after the disgruntled teenager sitting in his share house anonymously firing off abusive posts and emails.  They will go after the people they can find and who might have some money in the bank – the website and the people who run it.

    It’s a great idea and everything will be fine … until it isn’t.  And bear in mind, if someone with deep pockets comes after you in a legal action, they can destroy you, even when you are right and they are wrong.

     

    • This reply was modified 1 week, 4 days ago by Jimmy-T.
    #40765
    Avatar
    Andy
    Flatchatter

    I believe Buzzfeed is an online newspaper and produces it’s own content hence the defamation action. The OP is suggesting an online platform to he used by non-associated individuals to post a review or opinion.

    I’m not saying the suggested review website may never face a legal threat but i didn’t go into detail as such a scenario (or scenarios would be hugely complex and beyond me for sure.

    However if a business could be reliably sued for simply providing a platform which is used by an unknown third party to produce defamatory content, then we would all  be liable.

    For example if the local council rents out their hall for a community meeting, and someone turns up, stands on the platform at the front of that hall to make defamatory claims about something; then surely the council can’t be sued for simply providing that platform? If they could be sued, then the builder could be sued for building the hall, the brickworks for supplying the bricks, etc etc…

    #40785
    Jimmy-T
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster

    Point taken about Buzzfeed, which probably wasn’t a great example, but have a look at this article from last year that explains exactly how and why a website could be sued for a derogatory review.

    According to its author, you can only be sued for defamation if you identify the people allegedly defamed … but how hard would it be not to identify the committee, the chair or the strata manager – if only by inference –  if you identified the apartment block.

    And if you don’t identify the block, what’s the point?

    #40791
    Avatar
    Andy
    Flatchatter

    Yes I think the major hurdle will be to ensure reviews are honest and of course can be substantiated.

    An unfair review can be devastating for the recipient and there would need to be a mechanism to appeal/remove such reviews.

    If the platform was put on notice that a review was incorrect (or even only potentially incorrect) then I think that platform would need to act, otherwise they could also become liable.

    A field day for lawyers on all sides.

    #40799
    Jimmy-T
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster

    I think there is a model out there (in the UK, perhaps) where websites have 30 days after a complaint to delete potentially defamatory content, but then have to wear the consequences if they decline to do so.  Seems eminently fair to me.

    #40810
    scotlandx
    scotlandx
    Strataguru

    If you run a website like that you can be sued in relation to content posted on it, because you/the website is the publisher.

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