If you are one of our landlord’s insurance or unoccupied property insurance customers, or if you are a tenant who uses our home insurance policies, you may well have experienced landlord-tenant friction in the past.

Venting frustration in such circumstances is understandable, but in the case of one New Yorker who blasted a particular landlord, that venting only caused more problems.

When Andreas Papaliolios left the Jones Building in 2008, he decided to tell the world how he feLt about his ex-landlord on review site Yelp. Papaliolios called the landlord a “sociopathic narcissist”, and alleged that he contributed to the “death of three tenants”.

The landlord was displeased by the online rant, and sued Papaliolios for defamation. It is not always clear what defamation is, and how it differs from a general ‘venting’ of emotions, but the court found in favour of the landlord, summarising thus:

“While many Internet critiques are nothing more than ranting opinions that cannot be taken seriously, Internet commentary does not ipso facto get a free pass under defamation law.”

While here in the UK we are not yet as litigious as in the States, the case is a reminder of how careful one has to be when taking to the Internet for a ‘rant’. Most rants and insults pass unnoticed, but for the few unlucky ones who get caught defaming, the penalties can be harsh – and very surprising.

Free speech is cherished in the Western world, but care has to be taken when venting online.

So the next time you feel like ‘having a go’ at a landlord or a tenant – or anybody else for that matter – beware of defamation laws!