back to article Landlord sues tenant over moldy Tweet

Pop quiz. You find a disparaging post about your company on Twitter that's written by a client who's followed by a mere 20 people. You fear the offhand remark about the poor quality of your service could harm your company's reputation. What's the absolute worst way to make it go away? Do you: A) ignore it. B) remedy the …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Sue first, ask questions later?!

    Da-amn. I don't think they need to wait around for other people to ruin their reputation - they seem perfectly capable of doing it themselves. Are those guys for real?!

  2. Justin 3


    Don't Horizon realise that look like bullies and now the whole internet knows how they deal with their tenants. If they'd simply asked for her to take down the tweet no one would be any the wiser instead the whole web knows and will know for some time, that will damage their reputation more.

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. LaeMi Qian

    Not too bright.

    "We're a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organization," Jeffery Michael, whose family runs Horizon, told the Chicago Sun-Times.

    So I guess he will be getting sued for disreputing the company's name next.

  5. Aaron 6

    Fail :)

    So they don't like a negative comment made by a customer they have failed that will be seen by no one (after all who looks up a letting agent on twitter).

    So instead of offering any semblance of a good service they slap a now very public lawsuit on them. Showing not only do they dire customer service's, they own comments state they would rather sue you than ask questions and now a lot more people than ever before now know how poor they are.

    Well done on doing a lot more harm than you could ever have gotten to your reputation for a simple twitter comment.

    On top of that claiming 50k damages? that's hardly reasonable what with the company not being named directly. Horizon could refer to so many companies only a limited number of people who knew who that person used as a letting agent would know what that meant. Meaning that this would have had even less impact than they claim

  6. Annihilator Silver badge


    Can you countersue Horizon for exacerbating the problem (by giving it press) and inflating the damages?

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Is that all?

    When I website I helped set up and hosted ended up with a slightly negative comment about a pub the landlord barred all my friends and wanted to know where I lived so he could "Come and have a quiet word" with me which sort of backed up the comments made about the landlord.

    If a company / person is bothered by a single tweet / website comment and claims it has damaged their business its a sign of total desperation.

  8. Benny


    Thats the sound of their marketing bods facepalming..

  9. Xris M

    I need a lawyer

    Blah blah blah. I was going to write something insightful and mildly comical but instead I just want all of these people to die.

    DIE. DIE. DIE.

  10. Lost in a maze of twisty messages, all alike.


    do you perhaps mean "mouldy" ?

  11. Cameron Colley

    Talking of damaging their reputation.

    The most damagiing thing to their reputation that I read in that post was:

    '"We're a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organization," Jeffery Michael, whose family runs Horizon, told the Chicago Sun-Times, noting the company never asked Bonnen to take the post down.'

    Unless there are people out there who like people who sue first and ask questions later?

  12. Anonymous Coward

    I'm in Cyprus

    and I've just emailed "Horizon Group Management" to tell them they're stupid.

    Time for an international law case?

    Will I find plenty of expert witnesses to tell the courts they're dumb?

  13. Shingo Tamai

    Free speech anyone?

    Enough said.

  14. Peter H. Coffin


    Not in Chicago, they don't.

  15. dr_forrester


    You do. The ex-client does not. Fortunately for her, over here, the burden of proof (in re. the accuracy of the claim) is on the plaintiff (i.e. the alleged victim) in slander/libel cases. So, if she can prove they didn't do anything about her mo[u]ldy apartment, she'll win.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The question is... Was the apartment mouldy, and had the landlord failed to resolve the problem?

    If so it sounds to me like they are okay with their tenant sleeping in a mouldy apartment... You can't be charged with libel or defamation if the accusations are true!

    Then again, I'm speaking from the UK law view point, and we are yet to completely sell out to the corporate mentality (we're working on it), so in the USA it might be completely legal for big company to drag little person through the courts and win.

  17. Wallyb132


    they have something to hide, if they were able to pick out that comment, and knew it was directed at them, they're obviously aware of the situation, which makes the comment valid and therefore they're not entitled to any damages.

    Several years the US government and many states enacted legislation prohibiting this kind of behavior, known as a S.L.A.P.P. lawsuit, Illinois was one of them. this suit will go nowhere...

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Wildbank Court, Woking, Surrey.....

    is a similar place that has mould and damp problems, although Estate Agents dont tell their clients, nor do certain Landlords who pretend they are nice people !!

  19. Graham Marsden

    '"We're a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organization"

    I think he meant "We're a sue first, THINK later kind of an organization,"

  20. -tim
    Thumb Up

    Broke soon?

    Google for their name and Chicago and 9 out of the 1st ten are this story in some form which makes them look like scumlords. It looks like they are headed towards becoming a "Go broke and ask questions later" company.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Boys, that's Chicago

    Anyone shocked at the "sue first" comment should just realize that Chicago is just that kind of a place. People think NYC is harsh but New Yorkers are kindly humanitarians compared to the disgusting soul-less sharks that reside in Chicago. No wonder Blagojevich loves that town. Note to the hapless tenant being sued for 50k: sue the sausages right back; that's the only way you will get these pork-loving bluffers to back off. Note to Chicago: swine-flu=you.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Contradictory claims don't make sense

    - Horizon claims [...] it was a "company of good name, fame, and reputation and was deservedly held in high esteem"

    - "We're a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organization," - Jeffery Michael.

    I have trouble reconciling these two statements.

  23. GrantK

    They just never learn - the little guy now has a voice

    Just put a link to this article on twitter wit the #fail tag. How many people follow that?

  24. James O'Brien


    So seeing as they just took this public and all that, I guess emailing them and telling them in verbatim the 1st Amendment rights and SLAPP suits. Being that im from NY does this mean it will now become a Federal case?

    /Credit goes to AC Tuesday 28th July 2009 21:55 GMT for this idea.

    Let the good times roll I say

  25. James O'Brien

    Can I be sued now too?

    So seeing as your suing a former tenet about a post on Twitter that I never heard of or saw (and probably the rest of the world), there by drawing attention to it which is more then likely to harm you more then it would have. And not to mention the classic comment ""We're a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organization," Jeffery Michael" from your owner (Boy that one is a winner), your going to sue for damages you brought upon yourself by bringing this to light. Problem is this guys and gals, I quote verbatim so sorry if this bothers you:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    -The Constitution

    and you might want to read this page FYI:

    You fail :) Enjoy the adverse attention people you earned it.

    BTW your more then welcome to contact me regarding this message.

    Yup I just sent that to them. Lets see if I can get my name added :)

  26. Anonymous Coward

    *clap* *clap* *clap*

    Well done!

    If you had just shut up and let it be, no one would have cared. Now you make a big song and dance and instead of 20 people it's more likely to be half a million and rising by the hour, who all think you're a petty vindictive company with nothing better to do than pick on it's customers.

    Methinks with this much word of mouth damage, $50k could just be the tip of the financial iceberg!

  27. Anonymous Coward

    And here they are!

    Why not send them a message?

    I did - I can't imagine many of their 1,500 customers who have property managed by them could be happy knowing that mould is growing throughout their properties.

  28. Iggle Piggle

    Another approach for the defendent

    If she can show that any other tenant of a Horizon apartment has a mould problem that has been reported and has yet to be resolved without the tenant being temporarily rehoused then it could be argued that Horizon are OK with that tenant living in a mouldy apartment. If that is the case then what she has reported via her twitter is accurate.

    Years ago we had a rented flat with a leaking roof and later a mould problem. Time after time we reported the leak, the damp, and eventually the mould. They only really showed any interest when we took a significant chunk of mould that had grown (a kind of bracket fungus that look a little like an ear) round to their office (which was also their estate agency business) on a busy Saturday morning and asked in a loud voice if they thought it was OK to allow tenants to live in such conditions.

    I feel fairly safe making these comments because it is very unlikely that anyone will remember having a blue tenant that carries a blanket everywhere. It was a long time ago.

  29. Andy 97


    Stratford's favourite son had it so right......

  30. JamRog

    So pathetic

    I'm sorry, but this Horizon place sounds quite pathetic. Was Horizon trawling Tweeter for stuff that can harm their image. I think they have caused more damage to their name and fame, by suing this person. Shame.... poor little people..

  31. Herby

    Maybe Horizon is derived from Al Capone?

    And they enforce things in a different way. Yes, this is an OBVIOUS display of the Streisand effect, probably in ratio more so than the original.

    Selection 'A' is most likely the best option (do nothing).

  32. This post has been deleted by its author

  33. Anonymous Coward

    The great thing about Horizon Group Management is

    By putting Horizon Group Management into these responses, then anyone searching for Horizon Group Management are more likely to find that Horizon Group Management gets more hits to this site than the Horizon Group Management site, the people that sue first, ask later.

    So Horizon Group Management, welcome to the world of stupid lawsuits.

    Heres to Horizon Group Management and their wonderful customer service.

    Lots of love

    A non Horizon Group Management home dweller.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Can you countersue Horizon for exacerbating the problem (by giving it press) and inflating the damages?"

    I doubt that is itself possible (although there might be the possibility of counter suing for defamation depending on how it was taken to the press) but it is now established in courts that any "damage" by this now being global rather than just 20 wasters on twitter is the fault and responsibility of the plaintiff and any damages would only be based on the initial figure of 20 readers.

    Most likely the failure to approach the defendant and give her an opportunity to remove the statement and issue a "clarification" (and the sue first statement) will harm their case far more than anything else could except of course the truth.

    Not sure how things are in the US but over here truth is an absolute defence against libel and associated actions - I assume it is similar in the US.

  35. g e


    Well these guys have certainly, under their own steam, brought to attention the fact that I should never ever consider using them should I ever need accom. in Chicago, mould-free or otherwise.

    Epic Fail

  36. Frank Bitterlich

    Sue first...

    We're a sue first, ask questions later kind of an <del>country</del> organization...

    Here in Germany, for that statement alone the lawsuit would be thrown out and that comapny fined for abuse of the law.

  37. Saucerhead Tharpe

    I think they have hurt themselves

    If they have given the twitterrer no change to make redress then they might hurt the case befor eit starts.

    STARTING the case also hurts them


  38. Studley

    Not wanting to engage with Twitter, but....

    How did that move work out for you then, guys?

  39. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    A little quote

    Against man^H^H^H Horizon's stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain

  40. John A Fotheringham

    How on earth did they find it?

    With only 20 people following - unless one of them worked for Horizon - how did this tweet even come to their attention? I've missed something here...

  41. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: Sue first...

    >We're a sue first, ask questions later kind of an <del>country</del> organization...

    >Here in Germany, for that statement alone the lawsuit would be thrown out and that comapny fined for abuse of the law.

    I'm sure there in America they wouldn't appreciate you tarring the entire country with the same litigious brush. I mean, they'd probably sue you, etc.

    Seriously, though, bit less of the extrapolation? Ta.

  42. Portella

    Free speech? nah let have blasphemy laws put in place.

    Now they have truly damaged their image. You should see the amount of tweets about horizon now. the mold loving company. Basically what they are pursuing is the same thing many totalitarian religions groups have been trying to do for ages, introduce blasphemy laws. Free speech goes out of the window with this lot.

    hope the judge tells them where to stick their lawsuit. They cant take this case seriously.

  43. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    Does Google index Twitter?

    If so, then the 20 followers is a red herring - it'd be found by anyone who type the company name into Google.

  44. The Dorset Rambler

    Errr. sorry to be a wet blanket....

    But as far as I can tell the case has not yet been heard.

    And while I think it an excellent jape, would not hundreds of El Reg emails help to strengthen their [Horizon's] case???

  45. Stef 2

    There is such a thing as bad publicity

    Way to go Horizon, worldwide bad publicity - and all for free!


  46. Stef 4

    Sean Connery

    They pull a knife, you pull a gun.

    They post on twitter, you sue them for 50 grand.

    THAT'S the Chicago way.

  47. Jacob 1

    pfft let them sue

    Sounds like it is easy enough for horizon to lose it. If the apartment is moldy then there is nothing libellous about that post.

    She can probably counter sue after it for emotional stress. In an all honesty I wouldn't blame her either.

    Sue first ask questions later what kind of stupid company policy is that?

  48. Tony Paulazzo

    Well I emailed 'em too

    asking them if they were stupid, but it look like she was suing them already for the mould, so this story might run.

  49. Anonymous Coward

    Re: Sarah first


    This is the UK, land of Healthy & Safety!

    In England, you can be sued for not clearing snow off the pavement, should some errant soul slip on it.

    And in Scotland, the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond simply teem with litigious types. There's an empty primary school in Midlothian whose lights burn all day, all night, all year long - for fear that a burglar may break in, and in the dark stumble injuriously on his way to the claims court. (It's a warranted fear, too: there is precedent)

    So are the Americans guilty of the crime of which you accuse them? Perhaps, but careful of casting first stones - someone might pick one up and throw it right back.

  50. W

    Horizon Group Management site, Chicago - the people that sue first, ask later

    Horizon Group Management, Chicago - the people that sue first, ask later - seem to have been a bit silly, don't they?

    It would seem that pretty much no-one here would let or rent an appartment from Horizon Group Management site, Chicago - the people that sue first, ask later.

    Hi Mum. And Mr Google bot.

  51. northern monkey
    Black Helicopters

    Is no-one else a bit worried...

    ...that a letting agency was following one of their tenants on twitter? That'd be reason enough for me not to let from them, if I was on twitter in the first place.

    Unless she did '@Horizon', which would've been a little silly of her.

  52. Adrian Esdaile

    Why should a Tweet like that bother them?

    They ARE landlords after all, just jack the rent up by 2000%, like any other landlord would do.

    As for being OK with mold, well I think every landlord (oops, I typed landlard first. Freud, eh?) here in Australia thinks it's actually mandatory!

    Airhorn, because.. well, just because.

  53. Anonymous Coward

    Don't care what you say, as long as you spell my name right...

    It's 1-8**-H-O-R-I-Z-O-N.

    Got that?

  54. Richardesque

    Nice people...

    Almost makes me want to move to Chicago so I can rent from somebody else. I sent them a note telling them this, I hope they enjoy the attention! Oh wait, maybe they'll sue us all as spammers...

  55. Emerald

    Free Speech

    This lady was expressing an opinion... We still have free speech here in the USA so Horizon is wasting time and money. In some places, people or groups who file frivolous lawsuits are financially responsible for all court costs for both parties. This company may be sinking it's own ship. On the other hand, be aware of what you're putting on the net. It can come back and bite you. Whatever you write will be out there for anyone and everyone to see. It is not private.

  56. Richard 23

    @Cameron Colley

    "Unless there are people out there who like people who sue first and ask questions later?"

    Yes - they're called lawyers.

    Ah thanks - mine's the navy blue mohair with the silk lining

  57. Big Cheese Jong Jong
    Paris Hilton

    Horizon press release??

    Not sure if this is real but the comment that was attributed to the spokeperson was meant to be tongue and cheek apparently.

  58. Jacqui Smith's DVD Collection!

    Arseholes like the rest of their industry

    Letting agents are stupid, they make their living by telling lies and avoid providing the services that they are paid to provide.

    The last one I dealt with tried to screw me over so I complained about them and had them struck off the membership of the National Association of Estate Agents, who were also a bunch of cowboys.

    I hope Horizon goes bust very soon.

  59. Bill B

    Works both ways

    Hmm .. I read the press release from the company that they posted yesterday. They claim the roof had a leak in march, tenant tweeted in May, left in June with no evidence of mold in the vacated apartment (or anywhere else in the property) and sued the company. The twitter comment was turned up when they set up their defense. So, if you believe this, there wasn't any mold, they weren't stalking the tenant and the tenant was the one that took them to court in the first place. To several posters on this page .. guys .. you do actually read up the background to a story before you post, don't you?

  60. Jonny F

    BACK STORY - She was already sue'ing the landlord

    Steady on chaps. The back story, as i understand it, is that she was already sue'ing the landlord after some water damage. The landlord did a web search on the person who was sue'ing them.

    The USA is a very litigious place compared to blighty :-(

  61. SouthernBelle


    ...this should be a lesson to corporations to employ a little bit of the gray matter first, rather than blindly following advice from a law firm that clearly stands to profit from a lawsuit.

    But I suppose that's asking too much.

  62. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Solution

    The lesson here is, if you're going to call out somebody, do it on sites that protect your anonymity. I used to call out my boss on stuff too sensitive to talk about openly in the office, cc'd colleagues on the comment, and raised up a firestorm :).... and remained protected from nasty libel suits (though they say truth provides complete protection).

  63. Aaron Em

    Free speech? What? This is stupid.

    All of you idiots who think the first amendment to the US constitution has anything to do with this ought to try actually reading it. Where does it say anything about regulating what private corporations say or do, or how they treat religion et cetera? This is not a free-speech issue.

    As to the actual situation, if I were Horizon what's-their-nuts, I wouldn't be too terribly worried. Yes, the Internet is angry at them right now, and that means what exactly to them? A bunch of phone calls, emails, comment-form submissions (which I very confidently assure you are going to /dev/null already, so y'all just have a blast with that!), and bad press. Oh, God, not that!

    Y'all, this is a company which already makes its business model around screwing people who have no idea at all going in of what kind of belly-crawling evil they're dealing with; they do this because they have to know that anyone aware of their reputation will only do business with them at gunpoint. (The "sue first and ask questions later" comment is what really makes this clear; it's really, really hard to argue that a company whose representatives will take that attitude in public is simply unaware of its vileness.)

    A little bad press means what to them? You think a bunch of noise on Twitter and blogs is going to significantly reduce their range of potential victims, or impact their bottom line? Let me tell you something that maybe you haven't had occasion to hear before: not everybody is on the goddamned Internet, and people who aren't on the Internet still matter -- I know that last one's a shocker, but try to encompass it, okay? So the most -- the very most -- this fifth-grade harassment campaign is going to accomplish is to maybe get a couple of two-minute stories on the five o'clock news somewhere within a hundred miles of Chicago, and that's going to be watched by maybe one one-hundredth of Horizon's potential customer base. How much effect do you really think that's likely to have on how they do business?

    All that's being accomplished by any of this is to make life difficult for the lowest-level office peons at Horizon -- people who, I assure you, were hired (as cheaply as possible) for the purpose of making this sort of thing a minimal sub-nuisance at best to the people who're actually responsible for, and who really benefit from, Horizon's miserable practices. Congratulations! You've further complicated the already-miserable process of earning a minimal living -- and all for people who are completely powerless to effect the change you'd like to see! FUCK THE MAN WOOO

    And you know what the other funny part here is? The Internet gets bored. Hell, the Internet gets bored *fast* -- how long'd Iran last? Two weeks, three at the outside? And only one of those really counted for anything, in the sense of people actually paying attention instead of going "Oh...yeah...Iran." The Internet got bored with the Green Revolution *real* quick. How long's this one going to last? A day? Half a day? I bet you a dollar that two-thirds of these people who've made these big deals of what they're doing -- I bet they don't even come back to this comment thread after lunch, except maybe to check and see whether anyone's been fellating them as the obvious gods among men that they are.

    And it's all over a bunch of swollen smug self-righteousness, exercised on behalf of someone who's only worth even *pretending* to care about on account of being enough Like Us to use Twitter. Y'all didn't give a damn about people stuck in Chicago tenements yesterday, and y'all won't give a damn about people stuck in Chicago tenements tomorrow, and the people who own and take profits from Chicago tenements aren't going to be affected one whit in any direction by all this pointless heat and noise, and it took Twitter -- *Twitter*, for God's sake! -- to alert you to the existence of a problem that's been around since long before your grandparents were born. And now you're all fired up, gonna scream at somebody and change the whole world.

    What are y'all, five? And what real difference do you honestly think you're making?

  64. Eddy Ito

    Easy defense

    The tweet clearly falls into the "fair comment" bin. Unless Horizon can show actual malice, they are headed down shit creek sans paddle, ooh look... rapids. Add to that the fact they will have to show they have been damaged, I think this is different from UK law where I understand alleged damages are sufficient. Libel doesn't take place if everyone who reads it shrugs and says "so what" because no damage was done. Furthermore, their own comments have effectively immunized everyone else by making it so no further damage can be done to their reputation, so party on!

    *disclaimer, Damn it Jim, I'm a commentard, not a lawyer!

    Now, about that shit creek without a paddle icon.

  65. Jason Sheldon


    >In England, you can be sued for not clearing snow off the pavement, should some errant soul

    >slip on it.

    Not true. That would not be your fault, as nature placed the snow there, and the pavement is council property, not the home owner...

    HOWEVER - you CAN be sued if you DO clear the snow off the pavement, and THEN someone slips on it, as you are deemed to have caused the path to be a danger....

    So, best not to touch the snow on your footpath but to leave it where it is...

  66. DJ Particle

    @Bill B: Was the roof leak fixed? and how well, if so?

    If Horizon took shortcuts to plug the leak, then the mold is coming. Simple natural science, and the tenant would still not be libelous even with current lack of mold. I, for one, would not put it past a landlord (especially in Chicago) to cut corners on repairs. Trust me, I know from experience what corner-cutting can do. Towers Management (which operates in MN and MI), I'm looking at you! A badly-constructed not-up-to-code fireplace could have killed me and my then-partner if we weren't awake at 4AM one day. -.-

  67. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    She should

    Declare herself bankrupt and stick two fingers up at 'em.

  68. Anonymous Coward

    I know everyone's said it before but...

    I just need to say it too!

    And the award for shooting oneself in the foot with a Large Hadron Collider goes to...

    Jeffery Michael

    "We're a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organization," Jeffery Michael, whose family runs Horizon, told the Chicago Sun-Times.

    Sir, we salute you. Thankyou for giving me spasms of laughter that will last the entire day. I do hope you wont sue me for being jolly.

  69. Anonymous Coward


    I've tried all manner of ways to maximize profit, but not one of them was entirely suicidal.

    If I wanted to rent an aprtment in ameiriKAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA, I now know for sure not to go to these people, and that's not because of a tweet, but because of a completely media savvyless company.

    Penguin, because they are obviously fuckwits.

  70. Bryce Prewitt

    @Aaron Em


  71. James O'Brien
    Paris Hilton

    @DJ Particle

    I have to ask DJ, why, pray tell, were you up at 4am ;-)

    Was she the reason :P

  72. duncan wood


    Of course it's not confined to America

  73. Charles Manning

    re: Is no-one else a bit worried...

    The flip side... would you want a tenant that tweets?

  74. The Vociferous Time Waster


    Hadn't seen this but my landlords must have read this and taken note. I posted on twitter about their attempts to bypass the relevant legislation and impose a two month notice period on me and they then threatened to sue me for libel.

    It all turned out fine after I sent them some threatening emails back and pointed out the relevant part of the law that applied. They have since claimed that it was just plain ignorance to the law rather than any sort of malicious attempt to extort an extra months rent out of me.

    Of course I am fully willing to accept that Chaneys Chartered Surveyors or Sonning in Berkshire are, by their own admission, incompetent rather than malicious.

  75. MeRp

    @She Should (Anon Wednesday 29th July 2009 16:43 GMT)

    By Anonymous Coward Posted Wednesday 29th July 2009 16:43 GMT

    Declare herself bankrupt and stick two fingers up at 'em.

    So you propose that she ruin her own life, then declare peace with Horizon?

    In case you missed it, two fingers in the US means peace. Also, declaring bankruptcy to protect yourself from a suit that you will win is probably a foolish move.

  76. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Jeff Michael resigns by proxy.

    I had a feeling he needed me to send this for him, So I did,

    "Why do you all hate me?

    All I did was try and destroy Horizon and lose everybody their jobs.

    Was that so bad?

    I hate working here now.

    I quit.

    Up Yours sincerely,

    J. Michael,

    Head of publc disasters."

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