I'm being threatened with legal action for a bad google review

bestyearsJuly 17, 2014

Remember that terrible lake house we rented last summer? I posted a review on google hoping to save other people from wasting their time and money on this place. Yesterday, the owner sent me an email telling me he's going to sue me for defamation, blah, blah, blah unless I take the review down. Instead I replaced the review with one which clearly states this is just my opinion. Rather than post details and the original pictures I had included,I invited interested people to contact me via email. Of course this isn't appeasing him, and he's still making threats. I've read most of the online info about the Virginia woman who was sued by her contractor, etc., but am posting here to see if anyone might have some thoughts to share.

I can't find my original GW post, but here's very similar one I put under the vacation forum on GW.

Here is a link that might be useful: One of my original posts

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I looked at your original post...and this guy really has nerve threatening legal action. Based on the pictures, you should be suing HIM for misrepresentation! Which is what you should do if he does take you to court....you have pictures to prove it (hope they are date-stamped) which also prove you told the truth in your review. He doesn't have a "lake" to stand on IMO.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 9:57AM
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You should tell this BOZO that if he wants to take legal action that will be fine since you will file a countersuit of false advertisement and that you have proof that he misrepresented his rental property.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 10:06AM
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Same thing happened to me with a review I gave on Angie's list. You need to make sure you take the emotions out of what you post and keep it as factual as possible. They can still sue you (anyone can sue anyone), they just won't win but it will cost you money. My situation resolved when the company agreed to fulfill the contact and completed the job so I agreed to remove the review. I would make the same offer to your lake house owner--return your money due to the false representation and you'll remove your reviews.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 10:08AM
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Do you live in the same state as the owner? If not, it's probable that if he wanted to sue you he'd have to do it in YOUR state, since his state would likely have no jurisdiction over you. It's complicated, as everything legal is, and only an atty can tell you what's possible.

If it were me, I'd add his threats of suing you to my review, which is a fact he can't dispute. Or, if you're scared, I'd remove the review and replace it with one that said you posted an honest and negative review but have removed it because the owner has threatened you. Please contact you for details.

Here is a link that might be useful: Defamation law info

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 10:17AM
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bestyears, did you just change your yelp review? It will be interesting to hear what he says about the update. Did he ever refund any of your money?

What a jerk. It's the terrible vacation that won't end.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 11:00AM
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Here's you other thread~

Here is a link that might be useful: http://ths.gardenweb.com/forums/load/decor/con0711480126381.html?26

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 11:07AM
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I agree with 100% of what olychick said.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 11:13AM
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Here is your original post in HD forum.

I think you'll find this interesting. It's a site that provides historical satellite images that I've used it to monitor topography changes for personal property. I just plugged the address in and it does show a dramatic change in water level. Copy/paste this into your browser:
It should be the address of the lake house but if not, put that into the "Imagery Search" box on the upper left. Just under that is "Imagery Information" section where you can choose dates of satellite images you want to view. There are no 2013 images to choose from in the drop down menu for that address but you can still get a great before/after. Choosing 8/15/11 gets a blank for me, so I went back one further to 12/13/10 and you see docks sitting in water. Choose 1/1/14 and you don't see water anywhere near the natural shoreline. Zoom out on the 1/1/14 image and you can see the water line ends way out there. (Or you can hold down your mouse on the map image and move it toward the left till you see water.)

Even though the drought image is dated 6 months after your visit it would certainly seem to match up to photos of your personal experience.

If you want to save any of the images without subscribing or purchasing, just do a screenshot and save it. You can print your screenshot. Although it will have logos on it you'll still be able to see the landscape.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 11:33AM
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From reading all of these posts, past and present, I'd say you have it down pat. If this guy threatens to sue you, I wouldn't be real scared. He's ripping people off and is continuing to do that. Don't think he's going to want to spend money for a lawyer who will want documentation that he wasn't ripping people off. He's going to have to prove some where, that he wasn't. your photos prove he is. I can only think of one other way to get more documentation for yourself. An ad in the newspaper of the town this home is in. Ask for photos,dated, of the lake. By anyone, friend or renter. He has no leg to stand on, I'm sure he's aware of that, and is throwing empty threats. You could upset his rip off and he's not happy about it. You might cost him a weeks rental. Or another deposit he won't return. Good luck.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 11:35AM
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Empty threats from a pathetic bully. You have every right to have an opinion.
Defamation suits are not cheap, he isn't going to pony up many thousands on a suit that he has in my opinion little chance in winning.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 11:43AM
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WOW I just looked at those pictures of the water. How incredibly disappointing that must have been for you and your family!

I can't imagine he's going to be interesting in paying for something he clearly isn't going to win. I wonder how many other people he's ripped off and threatened for their reviews. I appreciate reviews and would be thankful to read yours before booking.

Good luck and keep us posted!

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 12:00PM
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Not an expert by any means, but just because he threatens legal action doesn't mean you should be afraid. It's just an empty threat until he puts his money where his mouth is, and I'd take the gamble he doesn't want to spend that kind of money.

Look at this overview article on defamation law, and see what you think. You certainly didn't libel him with *false* information -- I don't think he can make a case against you if you've got pictures proving your negative comments.

Here is a link that might be useful: defamation law in a nutshell

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 12:03PM
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Tell him you're going to sue him for false advertising and harassment.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 12:17PM
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Where the heck is the lake? How could he advertise a lakefront property?

I doubt he has a leg to stand on, but let it be a lesson to us all to only state the facts when posting reviews, not anger. Your pictures speak a thousand words, believe me.

You did a service by forewarning others. That is just horrible.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 12:30PM
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Being someone who often rents homes (directly from the owners) for vacation use, thank you for giving a truthful review.

Has your review been up since last summer? Is he now just getting around to saying something to you? Do his current pictures on his rental site show an accurate lake level?


    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 12:31PM
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ravencajun Zone 8b TX

Texas has experienced a major drought so there could be very dramatic differences in the water levels but what he didn't do was correct his information about his Lake house which is extremely misleading.
Since in your original post here at gw you mentioned that the sheriff's department agreeded about the place and that they had been called out there that could mean he is causing damage to the reputation of the city.
I think I would contact the city council and the chamber of Commerce about his false representation. This can bring about major negative comments about that entire area. They are dependent on the tourism. It should be brought to their attention that he is also threatening people and making false claims of returning money to customers. There are laws in those types of areas that are specific to tourist rentals.

Texas has been getting much more rain recently and I know that the lakes are beginning to recover some, it would be interesting to see if there's currently water in that area of the lake now. That would be information that the city should be able to provide to you. I mention this because if his area does now have water and he shows pictures of it currently he could try to use those against you.
No doubt about the fact he is not someone who should be recommended! His attitude and threats alone are enough to make him a person to avoid.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 1:10PM
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Empty threats from a pathetic bully. You have every right to have an opinion.
Defamation suits are not cheap, he isn't going to pony up many thousands on a suit that he has in my opinion little chance in winning.

I completely agree. If I were in your shoes, I would ignore this guy completely. I wouldn't even engage the silly, ranting little tool. It's HIGHLY unlikely that you'll hear anything further from him -- but don't give him the satisfaction of even THINKING that he's gotten to you.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 2:20PM
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" I mention this because if his area does now have water and he shows pictures of it currently he could try to use those against you. "

Doesn't matter because bestyears has pictures of what the water levels were like during the time of contract -- and they were drastically different than what was advertised.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 3:03PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

The best defense for libel is the truth. Just make sure you have your evidence lined up and you'll be fine. What he advertised, proof that you paid him and pictures of what you experienced and how it differed from what was advertised, proof that you paid another place as his was so unacceptable. Do not take down your review as, if you do, that could be construed as conceding he was correct, that you did libel him. If he sues you most likely it will be in small claims court where neither of you need a lawyer. Did he return any of your money? If not, either sue him first or tell him if he sues you, you will file a counter claim for the return of at least one day's rent as that's when you left.

Take it to Judge Judy. If there is any judgment against anyone, the show pays it...

However, judge Judy doesn't like lateness in suing...in other words if too much time has elapsed, you may be questioned as to why you delayed filing.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 5:07PM
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Really, all you have to put in your review is the pictures. "this is what was advertised"....'this is what we got when we arrived".....

Like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words!!

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 5:15PM
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Maybe the laws are different from state to state, but there is no way in my state that anyone can sue for 'libel' in small claims court. You could sue for return of your $ paid to him, but small claims is generally only for recovery of money, not torts, even if the amount is below the $ limit of that court.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 6:00PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

My understanding is that small claims courts can award monetary damages in cases of defamation up to a limit...$5k depending on the state, though they can't order anything beyond that, like that the review be taken down. But bestyears may be looking for recovery of money given their foreshortened stay due to misleading ads.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 9:32PM
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That's the problem with "legal advice" given by non lawyers on a forum, regardless of their "understanding." Best to seek legal counsel in your own state.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 10:36PM
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Why seek legal council? That would cost money. You wasted enough money on this guy!! Until he actually attempts to sue you--move on. I am sorry you are losing sleep over this. It really isn't worth it. Nothing will come of it. Ignore him and his threats, he will go away. Stop egging him on, leave what you posted as is. Walk away!! Stop engaging.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 7:04AM
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Or, you can change your review warning people to possible low water levels and to google as the above poster did to make sure the property currently is lake accessible.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 8:23AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Some states allow you to file for defamation in small claims...some states do not. My state does not, CA does. The monetary limit the court can award also varies by state.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 9:09AM
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Hi all,
Thanks for the replies. In answer to some of the points raised:

I have no interest in trying to get any money back. I'm really just concerned about this threat of his. In principle, (and I'm a pretty highly principled person), I want to exercise my right to post a truthful review.

The review that is up now is the replacement of my original post. I tried to keep it simple, and to reflect that this is "my opinion" because the legal implications for defamation seem to hinge on this. It's okay to present information as your opinion, but not as fact. Presenting facts is where you can get into trouble because the truthfulness of those can be debated in court. So it's okay to say, "This was the worst book I've ever read." But it isn't okay to say, "This author stole whole passages from another author," unless you want to defend that statement in court.

I live in Texas and the state IS suffering from a drought. Many lakes are very affected, some not at all, which is why I had an extensive phone conversation with him prior to making arrangements. He assured me the lake level was fantastic and we wouldn't have any issues (I guess the fact that the boat dock stood on dry land escaped his memory). One of our favorite lakes, LBJ, is dam controlled so that hasn't been affected by the drought. Another beautiful lake, Lake Travis, is at least 70 FEET below normal, and means many lakefront homes are no longer lakefront, but there are many public boat docks where you can easily launch a boat --which in fact is what we did when we left this guy's place early to salvage our 4th of July holiday.

The property owner HAS seen the new review, and still wants me to remove it. I haven't bothered to respond to his last email, and don't intend to. Thanks for pointing out this man's bullying behavior. Somehow that hadn't registered with me, but as soon as I read it here it resonated.

I'm going to just sit tight right now and relax a bit. I truly don't want to have to spend money defending this, but I'm leaving the review up. Thanks to forboystoo for finding my original post, which I'll keep in my file just in case.

Thank you to everyone for chiming in and sharing pertinent info. I'll keep you all posted!

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 9:39AM
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I always roll my eyes when I see people on forums suggesting this option when there's a financial-related dispute, because it's always a long shot that the media will take notice, but in this case I think, why not: Send a few e-mails to the TV stations in that man's viewing area and ask if they have reporters who do those "On Your Side" kind of pieces, for such things as contractors who take your money and don't build to code or simply slither away mid-course, or people who appear to be cheating you in any other manner.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 11:44AM
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I think the guy is blowing smoke. I'd ignore him. After looking at the pictures you posted and what you found when you arrived, vs. what he had posted, he neglected to remove HIS pictures that were not accurate.

I'd tell him you'll remove your comments if he removes the pictures that do not represent the true condition of the property. If he were to sue you (I think he's bluffing) I think you'd win. You did not receive what he presented.

If you truly want to goad him, post this bizarre vacation experience on Reddit.........

This post was edited by rosebud57 on Fri, Jul 18, 14 at 15:32

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 2:55PM
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pammyfay -the problem is his place is in a small town out in the country. For all I know, his brother-in-law is the sheriff... Truly, I just want to put it behind me. We've been so fortunate with every other private home we've ever rented, in multiple states, so I refuse to let this one take up more space inside me than all the others. I hadn't even thought of it in ages until I got his email.

rosebud, that's a great idea! If I was still 'talking' to him, I'd suggest it!

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 6:53PM
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I wonder if he claims his rental income on his federal taxes?

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 10:43AM
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So, only GOOD reviews are allowed?? That doesn't make any sense to me.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 10:52AM
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You wrote your original review a year ago to the month. Why is he waiting for now to threaten you with legal action? Just keep all of your emails, contact with him and photos.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 6:48PM
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