Being sued by property owner for leaving negative review on booking.com

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Feb 23, 2019
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#1
Booked an apartment in Peru for a trip. Upon check out, owner claimed damages for insignificant items such as small stains on towels and small pieces of broken plastic on plastic vertical blinds and that the apartment was "clearly treated poorly" which was not the case. The property owner was extremely rude in his emails to us and withheld $150 out of our $300 security deposit. I asked for invoices, reciepts, and photos of the towels after they were laundered showing the stains that required replacement and to date, he has never sent anything. It has been a month since we checked out.

I contacted booking.com to inform them of the situation and they refused to offer any help and said I had to deal with the property owner directly. When I said I no longer felt comfortable dealing directly with the property owner, they suggest that I leave a review of the property. I also contacted my credit card company and disputed the charge and explained the situation, that not only did we not cause the damages, but the owner hasnt provided any receipts. I also left a scathing review of the property on booking.com. A day after I left the review, the property owner sent me an email stating that he is filing a lawsuit against me for the negative review, claiming it is slanderous and might cause him to lose business. He also claimed that the lawsuit would contain the fact that I disputed the credit card charge fraudulently. The email included not only our home address, but the address of one of our personal rental properties, which to my knowledge would not be easily obtained through public information on the internet, which is completely unnerving. He also said he reported us to the police in Peru for the damage that we caused.

I contacted booking.com again after I recieved his email and told them that he is suing us for the review, and again they offered zero help. I have a fairly large social media following on twitter and have tried to get booking.coms help this way and still zero response. Where is the protection for the renter? I feel so violated and exposed by this and honestly a little freaked out that this pschyo has personal private information of ours.

We have two small children, and my husband is fighting leukemia. The last thing I need is an international lawsuit over $150. I have a call in to a defamation attorney and waiting for a call back because I am honestly concerned. I just feel so defeated and cant believe that this all can happen.

Would love any thoughts/advice from anyone who has experienced something similar. Needles to say, I will never use booking.com again.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
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www.promalvacations.com
#2
Can you post a link to the review so we can see what you said? There are ways of posting negative reviews that don't become slanderous. It would help us advise you because if it really is slanderous, you might need an attorney -and then that goes beyond what we can help you with. In fact once you contact an attorney - we can't advise you any further.

In your credit card dispute did you only dispute the $150 charge? If you did and there are no disclaimers on the listing that you are required to pay a cleaning fee, then this isn't a false chargeback - you have the right to dispute the charge without evidence.
 
Likes: VoR61
Feb 23, 2019
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#4
Here is the review:



L
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Can a property owner sue me for writing a bad review?
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Lmkg
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Yesterday at 7:59 PM
Nothing. Worst experience we've encountered in all of our travel we've ever taken.
I was recently diagnosed with a rare form of Leukemia that may require a bone marrow transplant. I was in Lima on orders from my oncology team to see if any of my siblings are a bone marrow match and possibly harvest for a future transplant. I could not afford to have all of my family members come to the USA to test each of them for the procedure so instead I opted to come to Lima where my family resides. My wifes company graciously sponsored our trip when they learned of my condition and plight. They paid for us to stay at the JW Marriott, but we needed a larger place for all of my extended family to stay near the hotel and hospital. It would have been very costly for us to have them all stay at the hotel, so we found this apartment as a solution. Worst decision ever.
We will never use Booking.com again and have warned all friends and family in Lima, our large social media following, and corporate contacts of this property and property owner. Now we want to warn you! Has provided zero documentation of the money he kept from our security deposit. The apartment smelled of mold/must and there is no air conditioning. The windows and doors had to be opened for airflow. A strong gust of wind could have cause the minor damage to the cheap plastic blinds that the owner keeps insisting are "persian blinds". I guess he thinks that the "p" in PVC stands for persian. You can purchase a brand new set of these for $25. He claims it cost $80 to repair them and to date has not provided a repair invoice. He also sent photos of tiny stains on towels and dishes in the sink, which we paid a CLEANING fee for that was part of the rental price. It would be like a hotel sending pictures of trash in a trashcan.

On the day of checkout we requested a 3pm checkout time which the front desk person (who also doubles as the cleaning person) verbally approved. Property owner then charged us a late checkout fee. If you are brave enough to stay here and you request a late checkout, get it in writing. Here are some verbatim quotes from the emails he flooded my email inbox with:
"You obviously don't understand the rental business"
"You act like you are more important than the other guests coming tonight?!?! "
"You need to be respectful"
"Are you really going to make a claim that they were broken and lie and disrespect her as well?"
What kind of a business man, or any man for that matter, speaks to a customer this way? It's sad and painfully obvious that the property owner is seizing this chance to squeeze every dime he can to settle some perceived score over a late checkout time. I asked for a copy of the invoice for the repair to the plastic blinds, pictures of the towels after they were laundered showing the stains requiring their replacement and for a picture of one of the towels that he claims was missing from the apartment. He responded that he would be mailing everything to my home which is ironic as he had no problem flooding my email inbox with photos and nasty messages at checkout. To date, nothing has arrived via mail and it has been almost a month since checkout. He also never addressed my request to explain why we were chaged a late checkout fee when his employee approved this request.
My wife works for a multi-million dollar destination management company with a global presence and has a personal relationship with both the chairman and the ceo, who were both eager to hear about our trip upon her return to work. She made sure to relay this incident along with the property address to them and I am confident that the treatment we received will be used when making decisions on their future corporate travel for their clients.
 
Feb 23, 2019
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#5
Can you post a link to the review so we can see what you said? There are ways of posting negative reviews that don't become slanderous. It would help us advise you because if it really is slanderous, you might need an attorney -and then that goes beyond what we can help you with. In fact once you contact an attorney - we can't advise you any further.

In your credit card dispute did you only dispute the $150 charge? If you did and there are no disclaimers on the listing that you are required to pay a cleaning fee, then this isn't a false chargeback - you have the right to dispute the charge without evidence.
Yes I only disputed the $150 charge. And I explained the entire situation to my credit card company.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
16,764
15,373
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#8
There are a few things I would not have stated in the review such as" It's sad and painfully obvious that the property owner is seizing this chance to squeeze every dime he can to settle some perceived score over a late checkout time. " And I'd take out the entire first paragraph as to why you stayed there - it doesn't matter why. All that needs to be said is that he is trying to charge you for damages that you didn't cause and he can't prove.

Were there other reviews of the property?

Since your husband said in his review you work for a multi million dollar DMC, don't you have an attorney there that can advise you? We aren't lawyers nor can we dispense any legal advice about this. But run it by the attorneys for the company you work for.
 
Likes: VoR61
Sep 19, 2015
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#9
Has Booking.com kept the review up?

Like Neil says with negative reviews one should only be factual and not speculate on motives— such as the “property owner squeezing” or use words like “fraud” “thief” or anything that implies criminal activity — which you did not do.

I honestly have to wonder if this guy is really going to pay for international legal process service and all.

There is the SPEECH act of 2010 that makes foreign libel verdicts unenforceable in the US courts unless the foreign laws give as much protection to free speech as the US.

But onto practicalities do you really think this person is going to pursue this?

And legal advice on general websites is pretty useless, as this is transnational defamation
 
Feb 23, 2019
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#11
There are a few things I would not have stated in the review such as" It's sad and painfully obvious that the property owner is seizing this chance to squeeze every dime he can to settle some perceived score over a late checkout time. " And I'd take out the entire first paragraph as to why you stayed there - it doesn't matter why. All that needs to be said is that he is trying to charge you for damages that you didn't cause and he can't prove.

Were there other reviews of the property?

Since your husband said in his review you work for a multi million dollar DMC, don't you have an attorney there that can advise you? We aren't lawyers nor can we dispense any legal advice about this. But run it by the attorneys for the company you work for.
We dont have attorneys on staff. An outside firm handles all of our legal matters. And they are business attorneys who Im sure really wouldnt care about some crazy from peru threatening us over a bad online review.

I took the review down. This is more trouble than its worth and causing me extra stress ans needless worry. Its pretty sad that it seems I have no recourse or protection from booking.com. I feel completely defeated.
 
Likes: VoR61
Sep 19, 2015
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#12
Booking.com really cannot help, they are just a booking engine.

Online reviews, international defamation laws, it is a complicated world.

I would write to booking.com company contacts and explain the situation in a private communication — just to let them be aware of the behavior— but stick to facts and do not speculate as to motive.

Keep the comments on cost of blinds and all out but mention the lack of receipts and such.

There are always going to be lousy people in life. I understand the issue on principle— but it is 150 and you have a major health crisis with your husband.

But do make Booking.com aware.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
16,764
15,373
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#13
If the company owners were anxious to hear your review, I would tell them about the threat and ask if their attorney. As a travel agent I know what a DMC is I really think they would want to know about this threat.

If your review is factual - and most of it was and you have the proof with the multiple emails you have received- I wouldn’t have removed it because you would be helping others who might want to rent. He should consider changing his business practices instead of going after you for calling him out on it. You were honest where you says he hasn’t provided any evidence to you.
 
Likes: VoR61
Sep 19, 2015
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#14
If the company owners were anxious to hear your review, I would tell them about the threat and ask if their attorney. As a travel agent I know what a DMC is I really think they would want to know about this threat.

If your review is factual - and most of it was and you have the proof with the multiple emails you have received- I wouldn’t have removed it because you would be helping others who might want to rent. He should consider changing his business practices instead of going after you for calling him out on it. You were honest where you says he hasn’t provided any evidence to you.
Neil one thing I have read is that the laws for freedom of expression are very different in Peru -- most of the reports have come with stories on journalists being charged with criminal defamation --

In Peru, criminal defamation laws are in effect and are generally enforced. Journalists are regularly threatened by prosecutions under criminal charges for insult, calumny, libel and defamation.538 Notably, the crime of "contempt" (also known as "desacato") was repealed in 2003 by Law Nº 27975.539

1. Insult

Under Article 130 of Peru's Criminal Code, insult consists of offending or insulting another person with words, gestures or acts and is punishable by community service ranging from 10 to 40 days, or with a monetary fine.540

2. Calumny

In accordance with Article 131 of Peru's Criminal Code, calumny consists of falsely attributing a crime to someone else, and is punishable by a monetary fine.541

3. Defamation

Defamation is defined as the action of publicly attributing and disseminating a fact, quality or conduct to another person that may damage his or her honor or reputation.542



Defamation is punishable by a maximum of two years imprisonment and a fine of 30 to 120 penalty-days.543 If defamation is "calumnious," meaning that it falsely attributes a felony to someone else, the penalty is between one to two years of imprisonment and 90 to 120 penalty-days. If defamation is committed using a publicly available source or media (i.e., through a book, the press or other social media), the penalty ranges between one to three years of imprisonment and 120 to 365 penalty-days.

https://cpj.org/reports/2016/03/south-america.php

I think about articles I have read on so called libel tourism ......
 
Likes: VoR61
Nov 20, 2015
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#16
Clearly, the owner is internet savvy, and will be able to find your posts here and on other boards. If I were you, I wouldn't post anything anywhere until the attorney you've contacted says it's okay.
 
Likes: jsn55
Sep 19, 2015
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#17
But would the Peruvian laws apply or US?
Depends where they sue you -- Peruvian laws in Peru, state/federal laws in the US.

Honestly for a foreign national to sue in the US takes a lot of money -- talking a big retainer. And since the review is down, how would there be significant damages?

Most US states have anti-SLAPP laws (google anti SLAPP laws and online reviews) --
 
Likes: VoR61
Feb 23, 2019
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#18
Well i am now sufficiently scared enough to delete everything. And my husband is not speaking to me for taking the review down. I cant say enough how upsetting this all is.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
16,764
15,373
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#19
Lisa, speak to an attorney. We aren’t qualified to answer your question.

I’m going to close this to further comments but when you speak to an attorney please come back and ask us to re-open this so you can post an update.

In seeing the information Christina found you were probably wise to remove all reviews. I think you’ve done the best you can by filing the dispute as he will most likely have to provide proof to your credit card company to win the chargeback.
 
Likes: VoR61
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