flexiblefullpage - default
Currently Reading

4 Tips For Handling Bad Reviews

billboard -

4 Tips For Handling Bad Reviews

These suggestions from an attorney (who specializes in remodeling) may surprise you

By Thomas Croessmann, Esq. November 29, 2021
how to handle bad review
how to handle bad online review

Tip #1: Remember Your TRUE Audience

The first thing that I tell a contractor that calls me to discuss a negative review is that you are not trying to draft your response to convince the homeowner that you were correct and that the homeowner was wrong.

Your audience is all of the other readers of the review, not the homeowner. In most situations, you have already lost the business of the homeowner. The purpose of your response is convincing the other readers that the homeowner is incorrect and that you, the contractor, are correct. 

RELATED: What Rights Do Remodelers Have When Clients Refuse To Pay?


Tip #2: Do Not Be Emotional

The purpose of the homeowner writing a negative comment is to harm the contractor or provide the homeowner some type of leverage in future negotiations. For example, the homeowner may say, "If you provide me a discount, I will remove the negative review." As an attempt to make the contractor look as bad as possible, the homeowner may use emotional, hyperbolic language. 


fake online review

Photo: pololia | stock.adobe.com

The contractor’s response should be objective, not emotional. An emotional response tends to indicate to other readers that the contractor is not in control or does not have facts to support their position. Everyone has read a response or series of responses between contractors and homeowners where it breaks down and essentially becomes a “pissing match” between the homeowner and contractor.

In those situations, the contractor ALWAYS loses. The reason that the contractor loses in these situations is because the contractor is the only one that has something to lose (i.e., other clients). The other readers will avoid a contractor who falls into this trap. 

When I write responses for a client, I draft the response as though I was delivering the argument/response to a judge or a jury in a courtroom. I use persuasive objective statements that make it difficult for the homeowner to dispute the statement. In addition, by using objective statements, it makes the homeowner’s complaint appear unreasonable. Typically, the other readers will side with whomever has a more reasonable position.

The importance of writing a well-reasoned response cannot be understated.  

An emotional response tends to indicate to other readers that the contractor is not in control or does not have facts to support their position.

Tip #3: Legal Options

Many homeowner reviews cross over the line between legally allowed reviews to illegal defamation. As a result, and in conjunction with drafting a response that goes online, I will typically send a cease-and-desist letter.

A cease-and-desist letter states that the homeowner has defamed the contractor and that the homeowner has a set time period to remove the post or else the contractor will pursue a lawsuit. When the cease-and-desist letter comes from a law firm, the homeowner tends to take the demand and the threat of a lawsuit seriously. In my experience, cease-and-desist letters work well to convince the homeowner to remove the post.

If the cease and desist does not result in the homeowner removing the post and if the post meets the legal elements of defamation in your state, you may consider a lawsuit to have the post removed and/or to have the homeowner pay for the damages you suffered as a result of the defamatory posts. 


lawyer bad review

Photo: zoommachine | stock.adobe.com

Tip #4: Non-Disparagement Clauses in Contracts

Many clients ask me, “Can I just put in my contract a clause that says that the homeowner cannot post negative reviews (what lawyers refer to as a non-disparagement clause)?" The simple answer is NO! The problem is that there is a federal law called the Consumer Review Fairness Act, which prohibits non-disparagement clauses in “form” contracts.

Typically, contractors use a contract that was either drafted by the owner or an attorney that they use for all of their construction projects. Those types of contracts typically would qualify as a form contract. The Consumer Review Fairness Act is enforceable by the attorney general. There are several cases where the attorney general goes after companies that use non-disparagements in their contracts. Before adding a non-disparagement clause to your contract, speak to a knowledgeable attorney. 


If you have further questions about this topic, feel free to contact our office.

Disclaimer: What kind of lawyer would I be if this article did not contain disclaimers? Please note that nothing above is considered legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. Your rights will depend on your specific facts and your particular state laws. Any results or outcomes stated above cannot be relied on for future results or outcomes. 

written by

Thomas Croessmann

Thomas Croessmann is the managing partner of Croessmann & Westberg, P.C., a construction law firm that focuses on representing residential and commercial contractors with all aspects of their business. Thomas Croessmann can be reached at twc@cwattorney.com or by phone at (703) 483-3550.

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

    This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Related Stories

A Letter to Your Clients: 10 Ways to be a World-Class Client

Mark Richardson flips the script, offering insights into what makes a good client and ways remodelers can help

5 Tips for Successful Performance Reviews

If you want to peek into a successful business, look inside the minds of its people

Why Change Orders Are Good

Use these few simple steps to alter how your company addresses change orders

Are Your People Burned Out?

Current conditions make for easy employee burnout—here’s how to recognize it and react

Becoming a Second-Generation Owner

Lena McNally talks transitioning her family's company to her own and seizing a business opportunity by becoming a specialty contractor.

Cause Marketing: What Is It and Why Use It?

Home improvement industry leader Brian Gottlieb breaks down cause marketing and why it should be a part of every home improvement company's budget.

Indicators of a Softening Market and How to Prepare

Market conditions could be changing, but don't panic. Richardson shares ways to stay on top of market conditions and how to prepare for any potential softening down the road.

Taking My Company Remote—and Staying That Way

A company president shares his process on working remote in remodeling

Understanding the Heart of Every Business: KPIs

In less than two minutes, learn the importance of KPIs, concrete examples, how to incorporate them into your business, and how to break KPIs down for greatest impact.

Homeowner Not Paying? 3 Options for Next Steps From a Lawyer

A construction lawyer outlines three options for settling a dispute over a non-paying client.

boombox1 -
native1 -

More in Category

native2 -
halfpage1 -