When you were little, your mother might have told you, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
Momma was no fool. That was sound advice then, and it's even smarter in today’s litigious world, where what you say really can be held against you in a court of law. Crossing the line from what you might consider free speech or personal opinion into libel or harassment territory can cause not only serious acrimony among neighbors, but it can result in expensive legal consequences as well.
We all have occasional differences of opinion with our neighbors—and sometimes we might even dislike them outright. That being said, it’s one thing to call your neighbor, board president or manager a jerk, but it’s an entirely different issue to accuse him or her of being a criminal, or a sexual predator, and then distribute flyers to that effect under the doors of everyone in your building.
“We have had instances where a shareholder reported a board member to Child Services in connection with an alleged—and wholly meritless—child abuse charge," says Jeffrey S. Reich, Esq. of the law firm of Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz LLP in New York City. "We've had board candidates who have raised others' past criminal conduct, and an instance where one board member accused another on a public blog of battering his wife.”
All of the cases mentioned by Reich ended up in a courtroom, with accusations that the person who made the allegations slandered, libeled, or defamed the other person. Did they merely state—or could they state—what they honestly believed was true? Before that’s answered, a little legalese 101 is needed.