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    Negative Reviews as spite for damages - your protection from them -  and why VRBO won't Protect us.

    kensilverman Contributor

      Join us in GROUPS, join the "Homeaway Review Policy"  group and the  "unjust negative review? FIGHT Homeaway" discussion therein.

       

      Homeaway does not agree that one rogue review counteracts tens of positive ones, nor do they think it wrong to put homeowner’s on the defensive – i.e. once a rogue review comes in – we HAVE to try to get tens of positive reviews to counteract – so we spend a lot of time calling old renters.  WE don’t want to be prepared beforehand. We don’t want to HAVE to have reviews to mitigate the possibility of a bad review or simply because Homeaway feels it’s the “hip” way.  Our business was excellent beforehand and we are happy with none or a few reviews.

       

      PROTECT YOURSELF – add a Gag Order-like clause in your Rental contract.  Explain to your prospective renters the reason for its existence – you will get good at it and you will not lose customers after a bit of practice explaining it correctly – without shame.  It’s an issue of trust more than anything.  There is no reason the fate of our entire business should rest in anyone’s hands.

       

      Our  contracts contain a gag order-like clause  in which reviews are  not permitted unless requested by owner.   However,  in many cases you  can succumb to the reviewer’s implied demands – ie pay them back *all*  their security (regardless of the damage) and they will, in exchange,  remove the unreasonable review of their own accord.

       

      It is unfortunate that Homeaway/VRBO force us to make  that choice,  but thanks to them, we must give in to the people that  rent from us when they leave us rogue reviews as spite in not receiving all security back.

       

      GAG ORDER CLASE

       

      The best protection is a clause in your Rental Contract  such as:

       

      “While all of our reviews have been  favorable in the past, we cannot risk the rogue review.  Certain  websites allow reviews that are unchecked with regard to reasonable  sentiment.  As such, you agree that the relationship between you and  the landlord is and shall remain private.  Specifically, guest agrees  not to post a review on any website unless solicited in writing by the  owner, understanding that even minor unreasonable negative sentiment may  unjustly cause thousands of dollars in damages to owner’s future  business.   Guest agrees to pay Owner damages of up to $10,000 upon  demand by owner if any review is posted by Guest or invitee thereof, is  not requested in writing by owner,  presents unreasonable negative  sentiment in the sole judgment of owner and is not immediately (within  48 hours) removed by Guest upon request by owner.  A copy of this  document shall serve as Guest’s full authorization to remove any such  review promptly upon request by owner.”

       

       

      Ken

        • 1. Negative Reviews as spite for damages - your protection from them -  and why VRBO won't Protect us.
          Contributor

          Ken,

           

          Another homeowner suggested adding a Non-Disparagement Clause to the rental agreement a few days ago.  Have been working on the language.  The Gag Order Clause you posted is really helpful...good job!  What do you think about the idea of posting the Gag Order clause right on our HomeAway/VRBO listing site so we have made full disclosure upfront that we do not want these people even sending us an inquiry if they have any intension of trying to post a negative review.  I do not want any reviews...postive or negative

           

          Lisa

          • 2. Re: Negative Reviews as spite for damages - your protection from them -  and why VRBO won't Protect us.
            kensilverman Contributor

            Yes, some words could be used in the listing - if

            everyone used the same, such as:

             

            "This listing provides credible references upon

            request and is no longer participating in reviews".

             

            However, the idea of presenting the exact verbiage

            of a gag-order-like clause as part of the listing I

            do not think is a good one for the following

            reasons:

             

            1)  Fragility of the prospect.  Just like a tiny

            negative review causes a customer to look elsewhere,

            (let alone a rogue review like "avoid this house")

            so would posting of the legal verbiage of our

            contract - without explanation.  However, once the

            customer is captive, via an inquiry, we can easily

            explain this predicament, the reason for our

            contract and the customer remains with us in most

            cases.

             

            2)  The clause is just like all the other verbiage

            in our contract and so does not need to be posted on

            the listing itself -  the listing is supposed to

            show what we offer, not our defense against the

            internal politics of Homeaway - which are lacking in

            judgment.

             

            Ken

            • 3. Re: Negative Reviews as spite for damages - your protection from them -  and why VRBO won't Protect us.
              Contributor

              Have been working on the language for our rental agreement.  This is the clause I have come up with.

               

              Non-Disparagement clause

               

              Renter is hereby notified that we do not participate in reviews from websites that are not owned or monitored by us and.  view that the business transaction between all parties should remain private. Therefore, Renter understands and agrees that this Paragraph is a material provision of the Rental Agreement and that all communications related to this transaction shall remain private.  Specifically, renter and invited guests agree not to criticize, ridicule or make any statement which disparages or is derogatory or post any review on any website unless solicited in writing by the homeowner or agent. If any review is posted by the renter or invitee thereof, and found to contain unreasonable negative sentiment and is not removed within 72 hours renter agrees that a copy of the booking confirmation receipt or rental agreement shall serve as renter’s full authorization to request a third party or website to remove any such review promptly upon request of the owner or owners agent. Failure to remove the negative review will be considered a breach of this Agreement, and homeowner will consider this act to have irreparably harmed by violation of this provision and will seek damages of up to $10,000 from renter. 

              • 4. Re: Negative Reviews as spite for damages - your protection from them -  and why VRBO won't Protect us.
                kensilverman Contributor

                It’s good,  I revised it to:

                 

                Certain websites allow reviews that are unchecked with regard to reasonable sentiment.  Renter agrees that even minor unreasonable negative sentiment can  unjustly cause damages to owner’s future  business. Therefore, Renter accepts and is hereby notified that homeowner does not participate in reviews from websites that are not owned or controlled by homeowner and the business transaction between all parties should remain private. This Paragraph is a material provision this agreement.  All communications related to this transaction shall remain private.  Specifically, renter and invited guests agree not to criticize, make any statement which disparages or post any review on any website unless requested in writing by the homeowner or agent. If any review is posted by Renter or invitee thereof, and found to contain unreasonable negative sentiment in the sole opinion of the homeowner and is not removed within 72 hours (the Review), renter agrees that a copy of this rental agreement shall serve as renter’s full authorization to request and oblige the third party or website hosting or displaying  the Review to remove it promptly upon request by homeowner or owner’s agent.   Failure to remove the Review  will be considered a breach of this Agreement, and homeowner will consider this act to have irreparably harmed by loss of business and goodwill due to violation of this provision.  In this event, homeowner will seek damages of up to $10,000 from renter and  renter agrees to pay all such damages requested by owner upon written demand.  Renter will pay any additional legal fees necessary to enforce demand should renter not comply.

                 

                Ken

                • 5. Re: Negative Reviews as spite for damages - your protection from them -  and why VRBO won't Protect us.
                  Contributor

                  This is perfect..thanks for working with me on the language.  Will have this incorporated into our agreement right away. I will send a copy to the homeowner that suggested adding this clause to the rental agreement on another post. 

                   

                  Lisa

                  • 6. Re: Negative Reviews as spite for damages - your protection from them -  and why VRBO won't Protect us.
                    method Contributor

                    This is a good idea, I've yet to have a bad review but there's nothing that worries me more than someone becoming bitter that we've had to deduct some money from the damage deposit because of damages and feeling the need to post an ominous review of conjecture because of it. I'll be incorporating this into my contract

                    • 7. Re: Negative Reviews as spite for damages - your protection from them -  and why VRBO won't Protect us.
                      Contributor

                      I'm not an attorney but I don't see how that's enforceable.  In fact, some renters may not understand or like the fact

                      that you are that worried about negative reviews.  I've rented properties for 40 years and I don't think one negative review will sink you.  In fact, expectations differ by person so one renter might think a place stinks and another person may love it.  Negative reviews are usually made by negative people. I had a negative review years ago from a complete nut.  I removed it because at that time you could and it was completely false.  The guy was so angry he called me up and threatened to assault me.  I made a police report in my jurisdiction with his name and phone number and address. Since it was a misdeameanor they wouldn't extradite him but that's not the point. The point is there are a lot of nuts out there and I don't think a clause in a contract will stop them.

                      • 8. Re: Negative Reviews as spite for damages - your protection from them -  and why VRBO won't Protect us.
                        swiss-house Contributor

                        As a web publisher of numerous forums, I've had to look into a few topics like this - there are issues of libel to be considered.

                         

                        In most cases, the website owner is free of responsibility for user posts if they state they have no moderation policy.  But even in these cases, if a user contacts the site owner and points out an innappropriate post, the site owner has a responsibility to investigate the legitimacy of the claim and remove the post if it indeed makes an unsubstantiated, libelous claim.  Once notified of the potential libel, if no action is taken the website owner as well as the original poster making the claims may have a civil liability in a court of law. 

                         

                        I believe that when a homeowner contests a negative review, HA has an obligation to demand proof from the reviewer that their claims are valid - otherwise both the reviewer and the website owner can be held legally responsible by the person libelled.

                         

                        The above is a summarization of many interpretations I've seen, and is of course not legal advice.  But it is good reason for HA to revisit their policy of accepting every reviewer's claims at face value, and instead erring on the side of caution by not posting a negative review that cannot be validated.  I haven't had a bad review yet, and I'm not in any kind of position to do anything about it here if I did.  But all it takes is one hotshot lawyer homeowner from NYC or Chicago to decide to take action over a bad review, and they could unwind this whole thing.

                         

                        Libel - noun

                         

                        1.  Law .

                        a. defamation by written or printed words, pictures, or in any form other than by spoken words or gestures.

                         

                        b. the act or crime of publishing it.

                         

                        c. a formal written declaration or statement, as one containing the allegations of a plaintiff or the grounds of a charge.

                         

                        2.  anything that is defamatory or that maliciously or damagingly misrepresents.

                         

                        • 9. Re: Negative Reviews as spite for damages - your protection from them -  and why VRBO won't Protect us.
                          Contributor

                          I agree with you , longtimelandlord - too many owners seems obsessed with unfavorable reviews and the supposed damage that might come from them.  I own and rent property, but frequently rent apartments through VRBO and other sites when I travel.  When I come across a listing that has only glowing reviews, I am a little suspicious, and figure that either the owner wrote them or paid someone else to do it.

                           

                          There are nut-cases out there, and there is not much you can do about them unless their tirade constitutes a case of libel and you wish to pursue this in court.  However, a negative review is not the end of the world, only a fact of life.  Such a review may cause the owner to look again at the property "with fresh eyes" and make some needed changes.

                           

                          There will be those guests who think that they will receive refunds, etc, if they complain enough and threaten to post a negative review.  I say:  "Know your property, stand up for its value, and don't take any BS".

                          • 10. Re: Negative Reviews as spite for damages - your protection from them -  and why VRBO won't Protect us.
                            Contributor


                            As an attorney, I agree that such a provision is probably not enforceable.  First Amendment rights, etc, etc.  If I were a renter, I would not want to rent from a landlord who did not want reviews other than what he or she approved.  And it is not libel, if the facts, even perceived facts are correct.  And as a landlord, are you going to sue a renter for breach of contract?  It takes time and money, and we don't work for free!  Not enough in damages - unless, of course, it is Bill Gates being sued.  I also agree that if a site lists only glowing reports, the red flag comes out.  Perhaps we fear negative reviews unnecessarily?

                            • 11. Re: Negative Reviews as spite for damages - your protection from them -  and why VRBO won't Protect us.
                              method Contributor

                              That's the point manouche, wackos will do whatever they can to get refunds they're not entitled to. I've heard a few stories such as the rentee posting a negative review on some vacation property because he felt he shouldn't have been deducted some money from the security deposit for breaking dishes and staining the carpet. Now tell me how it's logical at all for the owner of that vacation rental to "possibly" and very likely lose business because of conjecture out of spite?.  It's not. I am the antinome of these recent posts, when I see negative reviews, depending on how bad they are I generally move on and look at a different property.

                               

                              I'm not trying to be contentious longtimelandord but you stated a paradox you say I don't think negative reviews will sink you, then you said you removed the negative review. Yes it was conjecture, but you still had the want to remove it. Which; and not to belabor any longer brings me to my point,I don't believe most people here are worried about the negative reviews, It's the erroneous review created out of anger.

                               

                              As I have a family member who is in property management one thing I've learned quite often in most cases a scare tactic is all that's needed. Maybe this clause can't be enforced, maybe putting in a liability waiver is also useless to stop from being potentially sued. It doesn't hurt to try, and most often than not they work simply as a scare tactic.

                              • 12. Re: Negative Reviews as spite for damages - your protection from them -  and why VRBO won't Protect us.
                                swiss-house Contributor

                                I agree that a clause in the contract would not be enforceable, and more importantly, as a renter - anyone who wanted me to agree to a gag order just to rent their place would lose my interest very quickly.  Adding a no-bad-reviews clause to a rental contract is a non-starter from my point of view.

                                 

                                As for the libel issue, I also agree that no-one in their right mind would want to sue a renter, no matter how obnoxious.  At best it would be small claims court, and what venue would you select?

                                 

                                But the publisher, that's another story.  They have deep pockets and a reputation to protect. 

                                 

                                The scenario wouldn't be a typical homeowner hiring a lawyer to sue on their behalf, it would be a homeowner who was also a civil attorney who would take up the case on his own behalf. We all know how many ambulance chasers there are out there who don't mind grasping at the straws of unsupportable cases for the chance of getting a settlement.  (I'm not putting Mooreva in this group, by the way!)

                                 

                                I still think HA would be much better off implementing a more stringent follow-up process for reviews that make damaging claims.

                                • 13. Re: Negative Reviews as spite for damages - your protection from them -  and why VRBO won't Protect us.
                                  tsvr Contributor

                                  II agree with you but don't understand why would you believe that a property with only glowing reviews is not on the up and up?

                                  • 14. Re: Negative Reviews as spite for damages - your protection from them -  and why VRBO won't Protect us.
                                    Contributor

                                    Perhaps I should have said that I am a little suspicious when ALL the reviews are absolutely bursting with praise and go on in WAY TOO MUCH glorious detail about how absolutely perfect EVERY little thing was, even down to the last grain of the very latest, trendiest salt crystals, so thoughtfully provided in a designer salt mill hand-crafted by the lovely and charming owner...especially when you consider this type of review while checking out the accompanying photos, which sometimes present quite another picture altogether.  When you arrive, not only are those precious salt crystals nowhere to be found, but you have a lumpy sofabed and thrift-store linens to sleep on while the entire building you are staying in is covered in scaffolding and VisQueen and undergoing an extensive renovation - none of which the owner thought to mention to you before you signed a contract...  

                                     

                                    As an owner, I love receiving positive reviews, but will also "take my lumps" when necessary, and do not worry, as long as the complaint is justified - "The area was a little noisy for us, but when we closed the windows, we didn't hear a sound" - that sort of thing.  As a renter, I expect to see a mix of praise and a few fact-based criticisms, especially concerning properties that do high-volume business. No property is perfect all the time, and honest reviews would reflect that.

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