When operating a real estate business, it is important to remember that not only do you need to comply with the laws relating to real estate, but also any legislation that applies to running a business itself.
To protect you and your business, make sure you are familiar with the following legal obligations:
- Social media. Many property managers use social media these days, but always remember that whatever you post online is still subject to laws regarding privacy and confidentiality. Sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are great for networking and sharing information, but if you inadvertently share personal or confidential information on these sites, it can travel around the world quickly!
- Defamation. Pay careful attention to what you may post about other people on social media. Comments or photographs that reduce a person’s character, posted by you or your employees, can be classified as defamation, so make sure anything you post is fair and objective.
- Discrimination and bullying. Did you know that accepting or not accepting social media friend requests in the workplace can have legal consequences? Section 7 of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (ADA) prohibits discrimination on the basis of a variety of attributes such as gender, relationship status, age, race etc. Therefore, if you or your staff indiscriminately accept friend requests, it could be argued that unfriending amounts to discrimination on the basis of one of the attributes identified in the ADA.
- Misleading information. Be careful not to make any any false or misleading claims when posting on social media. This also includes the new underquoting laws that came into effect in January 2016.
- Employment issues. Employment laws regulate the relationships between employers and staff both offline and online. It is important to remind employees to deactivate their social media accounts and to sign a release upon leaving. The release should include a clause relating to the use of confidential information and contacting clients directly. It is also a good idea to have an employment contract that includes restraint of trade area.