Feb 18, 2008
Blogging can be a litigious cesspool…
18 Feb 2008
Posted by VAR
**This is solely the opinion of the author. I am not an attorney.**
By the very nature of being in real estate, practitioners find themselves in all sorts of litigious situations and many of these potential lawsuits can be avoided by using some basic common sense.
I love the RE.net and social media. I really enjoy reading the insight from others and have come to trust my micro-blogging group friends. However, I’ve found that some sites have been abused by “experts” and “professionals” with just bad information.
It’s difficult to write this post and pick out particular issues found in some REALTOR communities because I have to be careful to not provide legal advice and to be sensitive to the fact that not every state has the same marketing regulations. So, with the advice given on this blog, there are a few things to say. First I am not your Broker and all of your practices should be under the oversight or your Principal or Managing Broker. Second, I am not an attorney, but I am an instructor who gives consultations to attorneys on these matters.
With my own disclosures out of the way, let me mention a few things that I’ve seen routinely occurring by, what I must assume are rookie Web 2.0 Realtor practitioners; that may have the best of intent. Below are a few of my favorite (not) issues that I see over and over again.
Where did you get your law degree? More and more I see “helpful” practitioners with comments on a post giving really bad advice. I recently read a post where the agent was bemoaning the fact that REO sellers weren’t offering commissions. That’s a reasonable complaint; but the responses were horrible. They ranged from telling the blogger to simple not disclose his license status, but also to use his wife’s maiden name, etc… Obviously someone didn’t get the memo about Virginia’s disclosure laws or the REALTOR Code of Ethics (henceforth referred to as COE) Article 12 (disclosure of licensure) Article 13 (providing legal advise without a law license) or Article 1 (honesty and fair dealing).
If you’re going to give advice, copy or type the reference and source that backs up your opinion. Let folks understand where that information comes from so that they can draw their own conclusions – be the source of the source.
Moreover, if you’re going to practice law without a license, don’t be dumb enough to do it and do it wrong!
Sometimes it’s best to shut-up and keep it to yourself! I am amazed at some of the well… junk that comes out of some agent’s comments. One of sensitive spots is Fair Housing. It doesn’t matter my demographic. I feel VERY strongly that no one has the right to tell anyone what they can buy and where they can live if they are financially capable. Recently I was forwarded from a like-minded friend, a post where the agent was stating that she was tired of being afraid of a certain people group, and wish that they would all be forced back to their “native land.” First, let me ask the obvious – how knuckle-headed a comment is that to make in general, none-the-less from a person licensed to representative the best interest of all consumers and principals?!?! Regardless, this is an obvious pre-precursor to a Fair Housing lawsuit. If she were to ever get charged, exactly how long do you think it will take a para-legal doing research to find? Mommy always said, don’t write anything down that you wouldn’t want in the newspaper.
If it isn’t yours, ask permission to play with it. Another common problem is folks who just aren’t as creative as they’d like to be (I can relate) will actually copy posts from another author and display them as their own, this also occurs with pictures. When I create something, it’s mine and I can (and usually will) give permission for others to use it. Otherwise, plagiarism and copyright violations are dirty words. If you steal someone’s materials there are Blogger Posses that will come and make your content-stealing-butts miserable with comments about your cattle-rustling hides!
This is also important to remember when posting other people’s listings or information. Often I’ll see an agent making fun of another’s MLS entry. Remember that there are Sellers behind those listings and the last thing you’ll want to do is have them accusing you and your broker blackballing their ability to sell their home. If the listing isn’t yours, you don’t have permission to repost or marketing it unless empowered to do so by the Seller. Why would you want to help promote a property that you weren’t getting paid to promote, anyway?!?!
The Ninth Commandment: Thou shall not bear false witness! ‘Nuff said…
What have I told you about Sherman?!?! Remember that pesky anti-trust law? I’ve seen a lot of folks, proclaiming themselves “full service” brokers swearing that they just won’t work with those “limited services” guys. They will go out of their way to not show their property. Well, let set aside the obvious harm your poor practices present and linger on the federal lawsuit that could occur when you and your friends, from more than one company collude to boycott another practitioner from selling their listings… Think before you comment and post!
A few of my favorite things…. Code of Ethic and statutory violations run rampant on these sites, but aside from the ubiquitous violations that seem to be here, I have a few pet peeves, as well:
1. Don’t be mean! Just because you don’t agree, you don’t posses the right to “flame” the author or commenter. From great debate and rhetoric comes the truth. Try to find a respectful way to exchange ideas and teach someone if you feel they are incorrect.
2. Don’t, please don’t, really don’t post your new listing every five minutes. None of us read blogs to see your inventory. Most practitioners have MLS and if you’ve done a good job there, than the agent will find and show your property. It just seems that you’re bragging when you do this. You can see my previous post on this issue. I have removed many RSS feeds from folks who had good posts, but they were buried in listing posts.
3. If you’re going to reference a post you’re opposing, don’t be vague. Give the reference so that we can cross on over and visit your nemesis for a bit. Most of us like getting both sides of the story so that we can decide for ourselves where the truth lies. Only people who think they may be wrong hide the opposing arguments.
In conclusion, I’d like to say that Activerain and others like it can be a great way to learn from one another and I don’t think the “rules of engagement” are that difficult. Use some common sense and ask how this post or comment could harm someone. Be kind and as the foundation of almost all religions and the COE states: Do unto others, as you would have them to unto you.
This is not an all inclusive list, but certainly the issues I most commonly see. I am sure commenters will fill in any issues that I may have missed.
Let’s have fun, learn and share!