Think Before You Tweet, Part II
| September 27, 2012
Earlier this week, a question was sent my way, via Twitter, with respect to industry professionals posting photos of houses for sale on Twitter – with, what could only be described as, mocking editorializing. The question being, of course, whether or not such behaviour is acceptable.
Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy answer in this case as it will depend on the specific situation.
There could be a few issues that arise with such behaviour. One, those real estate professionals representing a buyer while viewing homes for sale do not have permission from a given seller to take photographs of the inside of a house. The seller’s representative would be authorized to do so, typically through the Seller Brokerage Agreement, but a buyer’s representative would not have that same permission. Now, if a buyer’s representative were to post pictures of the outside of the house that might be okay as house exteriors are in the public domain already. You can see exterior house shots on Google Street View or just by walking down the street, but once again, the context is important –particularly if the photo is posted along with editorial commentary.
Interior shots, though, are distinct from exterior shots. If interior shots were to be posted and there was commentary that identified what house/address/location they were from, that could be a privacy issue, because again, it’s not a buyer’s representative that has been given permission to take interior photographs.
The second issue that arises is with respect to the specific comments that may be included along with photos of a seller’s property. Do the comments relate to the condition, value, defects or marketability of the property? Is there direct criticism of the property?
Section 42(a) of the Real Estate Act Rules prohibits industry members from making representations or carrying on conduct that is reckless or intentional and that misleads or deceives any person or is likely to do so. Section 42(g) of the Real Estate Act Rules prohibits industry members from engaging in conduct that undermines public confidence in the industry, harms the integrity of the industry, or brings the integrity of the industry into disrepute.
Is it possible that a comment an industry professional makes on a social network about a property they’ve viewed crosses the line and breaches section 42(a) and/or 42(g) of the Rules? Yes, it’s possible – but it’s not a foregone conclusion and it would require a thorough review of the facts of the case and the context of any comments made.
However, just as we said in our January 2012 blog where we touched on this topic…just because the Rules and the Act don’t say you can’t do something, doesn’t mean you should do it. Certain behaviours maybe shouldn’t be tolerated in any industry that bills itself as a profession, with industry members that bill themselves as professionals.
Do you agree – why or why not?