Apartment Building Attempts To Coerce Tenants Into Crazy Social Media Policy Post-Lease

from the with-facebook-friends-like-these dept

We've done enough posts on apartment complex owners and property management companies to know that too many of them think that they can wage some kind of insane war on negative reviews that might be posted on social media and websites. To combat this, rather than simply addressing the concerns of their tenants, these misguided companies instead attempt to put social media and review policies as riders on the leases they offer. When that fails, some will either sue the critical parties, or will write in five-figure fines for posting anything that could possibly be deemed as critical.

But to see a really brazen attempt to shut up tenants, we can thank Dave Blevins for pointing us to the story of how one apartment owner tried to unilaterally force residents not only to keep quiet with any of their critiques online, but required them to "like" the apartment company on Facebook.

As KSL-TV reports, residents of an apartment building in Salt Lake City, Utah, say they found a curious piece of paper stuck to their doors. Headlined "Facebook Addendum," it had fascinating stipulations.

It insisted that tenants had five days to "friend" the City Park Apartments on Facebook or they'd be in breach of their lease. The fact that they'd already signed their lease perhaps months previously didn't seem to matter to the owners. Oh, and then there was the part about releasing the building owners to post pictures of the tenants or their visitors to, yes, the building's Facebook page.

You will also be traumatized into delirium when I tell you that another stipulation was that the tenants don't post anything negative on social media. This seems a strangely unbalanced "friendship."

So, not only a prohibition on negative reviews on social media, but also a requirement to give an endorsement of sorts instead. And all long after the lease was signed? Oh, this was just destined to go well for all involved.

Actually, the apartment building's Facebook page has a barely-there review score, with many folks dropping in to post negative reviews simply due to the draconian "policy" foisted upon its residents. I'd link to that particular Facebook page but, strangely, it has suddenly become unavailable for unknown reasons. As a result of all the backlash, the apartment building's law firm has helpfully fallen on the sword, indicating that it apparently didn't bother to review the notice it sent to tenants.

Perhaps the owners thought this was reasonable, modern behavior. A spokesman for the law offices of Kirk A. Cullimore, which represents the building owners, offered me this explanation:

As part of opening its pool and an anticipated pool party, City Park desired to provide some protection to its residents and its owners from usage of photos on its Facebook page from all community events, including the opening pool party. The "Facebook" addendum was provided to them to assist in that protection. That addendum went beyond the request and intent of City Park Apartments, and was not carefully reviewed to ensure that it met with their needs and requests. At no time was any resident in jeopardy of eviction or action from City Park for failure to sign the addendum or "friend" City Park Apartments. City Park has not implemented the addendum nor is it requiring its residents to execute it.

One wonders exactly how many billable hours were assigned for the task of creating an addendum outside of the lease agreement for tenants that the apartment complex apparently didn't want, which involved required Facebook likes and prohibited negative reviews, all in order to protect tenants from the horrors of the internet creeping into a simple pool party. Sounds like exactly the kind of thing that would either spur the choice to go with another legal team, or thank them for taking the heat via a heaping help of shielding bullshit.

Regardless, it would probably be best for the apartment to focus on making tenants happy rather than worrying about their social media reviews.

Filed Under: landlord, likes, non disparagement, real estate, salt lake city, social media
Companies: city park apartments, facebook


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 2 Jun 2016 @ 4:28pm

    How to shoot yourself in the foot like a pro

    The best part of stories like this is how completely counter-productive they are.

    Bad reviews are a given for any company or in this case landlord with customers/tenants, expected even, as you can't please everyone, which most reasonable people will understand. In fact bad reviews can even be turned to the seller's advantage if they show that they are willing to do what they can to fix whatever the problem was/is in order to offer the best product/service that they can.

    By trying to prohibit anything but good reviews on the other hand you not only bring into question the sincerity of any previous good reviews('Did they actually get a satisfactory product/service, or were they forced to write that?'), but you have people assuming the worst because clearly the service/product has got to be downright terrible if the one offering it feels the need to bar people from being critical of it.

    In an attempt to present a shining, no-flaw product/service they instead make it look worse than any negative review could have ever managed, and they have only themselves to blame for it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    mr. sim (profile), 2 Jun 2016 @ 4:41pm

    one can only hope that a lawyer is already signing the tenants up to sue. you cannot have an addendum to a lease and be legally binding that isn't signed and dated by the tenant as far as a i know and I've had a few of them over the years.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Baron von Robber, 3 Jun 2016 @ 7:34am

      Re:

      One thing I remember from my business law class is that it is mandatory that any transactions involving real-estate property must be in writing. All else is void. Of course, contracts are written up for many other things and is wise.

      But for real-estate, it's mandated by law to be in writing.

      So yea, if they didn't get sign-offs by each tenant after signing their leases, they can go pound sand.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    David.A.M. (profile), 2 Jun 2016 @ 4:53pm

    Everyone seems to miss the most important part of this, If they force you to friend them then all of your friends only texts and photos are available to them. I hope you did not have a party lately

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      K`Tetch (profile), 2 Jun 2016 @ 7:19pm

      Re:

      WEll, to 'friend'them, they'd have to be a profile, but they're not a person, so they should have a 'page' instead (and 'profiles' for non-persons are reportable and a TOS violation), which can't do that.

      Oh, and you can 'friend' them and then reclassify them using groups/listings to give them zero access if you want.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    I Like You, 2 Jun 2016 @ 5:50pm

    Facebooker

    It's easy to post "positive" reviews that are meaningful. For instance, "I have to give a solid 10 to the wonder odor of the carpets upon move in. I am SURE the owner paid top dollar for the service, which I am sure included removal of pet urine."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Atkray (profile), 2 Jun 2016 @ 10:38pm

      Re: Facebooker

      Like this?

      I live in the area and I can tell you that, City Park Apartments are pretty nice and I-15 helps block out the noise from the railroad yard that is nearby.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 2 Jun 2016 @ 6:41pm

    "At no time was any resident in jeopardy of eviction or action from City Park for failure to sign the addendum or "friend" City Park Apartments."

    I'm sorry, are you saying that a legal document spelling out terms and conditions can be safely ignored?
    It was one sided and stupid, but it was still a legal document that compelled people to follow a course of action or face a very adverse outcome.
    A court very well might have ruled against the clients, but the damage already could have been done to someone evicted and having an eviction on their record while trying to fight in court against a better financed adversary.

    This was stupid & stupid should hurt.
    Apparently an addition needs to be made to renters rights clearly spelling out that demanding Facebook liked & never bad mouthing the complex/ownership has a cost. That taking actions against tenants who might not be thrilled with the complex and mention it online will have a financial penalty.

    The law firm should be penalized by who ever allows them to pretend to be lawyers, failing to review a legal document and pretending it was an oversight shows a complete failure of their duty to the client & the law.

    I think the tenants should boycott the pool party and make it clear on social media that the ownership's stupidity lead to the tenants not wanting to celebrate anything with the ownership.

    Aren't hollow threats of eviction actionable?
    Stupid should hurt, and having to pay legal fees, penalties, & move out costs for tenants who have been made to feel unsafe in their homes might send the right message. I'm willing to bet they'll have a hard time getting new tenants and maybe the next company to buy the property will think demanding Facebook likes & nothing but positive reviews is a bad idea.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mason Wheeler (profile), 3 Jun 2016 @ 7:25am

      Re:

      Aren't hollow threats of eviction actionable?

      Why are you even asking this when we've been shown pretty clearly that even actual false eviction is not actionable these days? (How many people went to jail over robo-signing and similar scandals?)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 3 Jun 2016 @ 3:36pm

      Re:

      My current lease has a poorly-written clause in it that threatens eviction if you violate it.

      The clause in question flatly prohibits any electrical, gas or solid fuel device that produces heat from the apartment without prior written consent of the landlord. It goes on to say that written consent will NOT be given unless sought in advance. Each copy of the lease includes a page for individual items to be listed as having consent.

      As the clause is phrased, it applies to everything in the apartment from the baseboard heaters to the hot water heater, from the stove to the refrigerator. The intent of the landlord was to stop people from using gas, electric or charcoal grills inside the apartment or out on the balcony, but it so broadly written it could be read to prohibit FIRE EXTINGUISHERS.

      None of the landlord-installed devices that are physically wired into the structure of the apartment (stove, baseboard heaters, water heater, overhead lighting, etc) are on the approved list for my lease. Nor are any of the plugged-in but landlord-supplied appliances, such as the refrigerator.

      And as written, it is the tenant's (not the landlord's) duty to remove all unapproved devices under penalty of eviction!

      Unsurprisingly, everybody in the building is ignoring that clause, including the property manager.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Jun 2016 @ 7:24pm

    Looks like City Park Apartments, the apartment complex in the heart of all this, has taken a hit to its rating on facebook. You would think that CPA would have learned its lesson after the FUCKED up mess that was Amy's Baking Company. Their overall rating has dropped down to 1.8 stars. LOLS

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Eponymous Coward, 3 Jun 2016 @ 7:37am

    Except, I doubt it was the law firm's employees posting the notices to tenants' doors. The apartment complex management knew fully what they were doing and saying; there's no way they hadn't read the notices.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jun 2016 @ 10:16am

    What I don't understand is how it seems business, legal, and common sense logic go out the window when a situation involves the internet.

    It's not like people didn't talk or share negative reviews of a business with others before the internet. Granted the reach of people's network of friends and acquaintances was more limited but I would bet the word of mouth you got was more valuable.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Jun 2016 @ 10:22am

      Re:

      What I don't understand is how it seems business, legal, and common sense logic go out the window when a situation involves the internet.

      On the Internet is only the symptom, businesses have decided that it is cheaper to force customers to say how great they are, rather than actually providing great service to get the good reviews.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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