There is no reference to defamation or the need to protect body corporate members against liability that arises from acts of defamation in the community scheme legislation. Furthermore, standard insurance policies generally specifically exclude defamation.
The community scheme environment is the perfect breeding grounds for acts of defamation. People are communicating in groups, find themselves in large meetings and social media groups.
In this day and age, social media such as Facebook and Twitter and Whatsapp groups have become common ways of communication which are widely read and recorded. This means that if you say something harmful or comment in a way that harms someone’s dignity, good name or reputation in the community or simply like such a comment, you may find yourself being sued.
A recent article in Personal Finance warns readers against easily finding oneself in hot water with negligent use of social media.
Community scheme living is challenging in that many people of diverse backgrounds live in close proximity and have to share amenities. Emotions can quickly become highly charged and lead to the wrong thing said, perhaps on a public forum without the opportunity to take it back.
We have noticed some negative or unfair comments about managing agents and trustees where unrealistic expectations cause someone to make harmful comments on social media. This is not really about the facts but instead about the risk of harm caused by what is said.
Trustees must be careful not to impose their value system on another party. They must be guided by the rules.
Sometimes a trustee’s personal viewpoint may be exposed through the decision-making process and follow up communication to owners. Such communication may potentially affect someone’s reputation therefore, trustees should manage all matters with sensitivity and where necessary, seek professional advice. A professional and experienced managing agent can help navigate trustees through such circumstances.
In summary, be aware that your community scheme insurance policy is not going to cover any legal costs or defend you as a trustee, community scheme or owner where you are committing any form of defamation. Therefore, guard against any negative comments at all costs to protect yourself – even if factually correct.
Author: Mike Addison, Addsure
Contact Addsure – The Leaders in Sectional Title Insurance – for fit and proper advice from advisors who understand Sectional Title. Contact us in Johannesburg (011) 704-3858; Durban (031) 459-1795; Cape Town (021) 551-5069