Habitat - July/August 2017 - 11

LEGAL CORNER

J. Mike Williams
Fowler, Hein, Cheatwood
& Williams, P.A.

S

Dealing with Negative
Social Media Reviews

ocial Media is a nice marketing tool for the
multifamily apartment industry (see cover story,
page 14). However, it can also be a means for the
most disgruntled former and current resident to
try and "get back" at the property. In many instances, good
residents don't always leave reviews on social media sites. As
an industry, we should encourage prospects and residents
to leave positive reviews when possible. Unfortunately, our
industry mainly receives negative reviews on the company
webpage or on other apartment rating sites.
Professionalism and good customer service are essential to
reducing negative reviews. A good example of this involves an
old retail store that won't be mentioned by name. When they
first opened their doors they provided good customer service
and dominated the retail store market. It has been said that
as time went on, their customer service deteriorated. This
company failed to fulfill vacant jobs with new employees, and
their customer service slowly declined. Customers could no
longer find any store associates in the store to assist them
with their needs. On average, a disgruntled customer will tell
3-5 people of their bad experience. This retail chain slowly
lost business that ultimately led them into bankruptcy.
This is a good illustration of the importance of maintaining
professionalism, good customer service, and addressing the
needs of your residents.
Believe it or not, you will not make everyone happy all of the
time. We often receive calls from community managers and
other staff members complaining about something that is said
or published on a social media site. After we calm the client,
we typically advise them that the comments do not impact the
marketing of the property. However, if the comments identify
names, make lewd or inappropriate comments, or contain
slanderous references, then a cease and desist notice can be sent
to the social media website demanding the removal of those
portions. It may require retaining local counsel in order to get
the social media site to act.
Paragraph 14 of the lease agreement dedicates an entire
paragraph on social media prohibitions. It prohibits the
resident and occupants from using the internet in any manner
to disparage, defame or injure the business or business
reputation of the apartment owner or management. It
prohibits the use of the owner's or management's logos, images,
slogans, internet domain names, trademarks, copyrights
or trade names. This provision also authorizes the owner

or management to seek an injunction as well as damages to
prevent any unauthorized publication or use of the information.
This provision also expressly prohibits the resident and
occupants from posting or publishing misleading, deceptive,
untruthful, groundless, false, or unfair statements or
commentary about the apartment community, any employee,
the owner, or management to any internet website, internet
blog, internet social media, newspaper, magazine, television,
other news or social media.
Most importantly, this provision allows you to terminate the
lease of any resident or occupant who violates this provision.
The best practice is to use warning letters giving the resident or
occupant a certain amount of time, such as three (3) to five (5)
days, to remove the false information from the social media site
to avoid termination of the lease. If they fail to comply with your
request, photographs or copies of the social media page should
be kept as evidence to prove the conduct, then a termination
notice may be sent to enforce the terms of the lease.
In most instances, the negative posting is made by a former
resident that already vacated the premises. The posting does
not always identify the writer, making it difficult to enforce
the wrongdoing. In Georgia, defamation is a civil wrong
subjecting the person that publishes the false information
that damages your business to damages that you can prove.
The best practice is to send a notice to the social media site
requesting the removal if it is false, inappropriate, or there is
any other violation of the websites use policy. A notice to the
person who publishes the false information should be sent
advising them to remove the post, or they will be subject to
damages. Obviously, it is difficult if not impossible to send the
notice to a person who posts anonymously. *
Always maintain professionalism and good customer service
when dealing with prospects and residents. If something does
occur, remember to always document the event.
Fowler, Hein, Cheatwood & Williams serves as corporate and
litigation counsel in the multifamily housing industry. Their
practice areas include, but are not limited to evictions, defense
of lawsuits, mold litigation, fair housing defense throughout the
country, code enforcement defense, lease revisions, and general
consultation of their clients. You can learn more about the firm
by visiting www.apartmentlaw.com, or you may email Mike at
mwilliams@apartmentlaw.com.
J U LY/AU G U S T 2 017

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H A BITAT

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http://www.apartmentlaw.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Habitat - July/August 2017

Chair’s Message
Legal Corner
Social Media Marketing in Multifamily
Curb Appeal
Government Affairs
Up Close
AAA Education
Foundation Update
Volunteer’s Corner
AAA Gold Patron Member Profile: Renter’s Reference Services
AAA Gold Patron Member Profile: BELFOR
New Members
Advertisers’ Index
Habitat - July/August 2017 - intro
Habitat - July/August 2017 - cover1
Habitat - July/August 2017 - cover2
Habitat - July/August 2017 - 3
Habitat - July/August 2017 - 4
Habitat - July/August 2017 - 5
Habitat - July/August 2017 - 6
Habitat - July/August 2017 - 7
Habitat - July/August 2017 - 8
Habitat - July/August 2017 - Chair’s Message
Habitat - July/August 2017 - 10
Habitat - July/August 2017 - Legal Corner
Habitat - July/August 2017 - 12
Habitat - July/August 2017 - 13
Habitat - July/August 2017 - Social Media Marketing in Multifamily
Habitat - July/August 2017 - 15
Habitat - July/August 2017 - 16
Habitat - July/August 2017 - 17
Habitat - July/August 2017 - 18
Habitat - July/August 2017 - Curb Appeal
Habitat - July/August 2017 - Government Affairs
Habitat - July/August 2017 - 21
Habitat - July/August 2017 - 22
Habitat - July/August 2017 - Up Close
Habitat - July/August 2017 - AAA Education
Habitat - July/August 2017 - Foundation Update
Habitat - July/August 2017 - Volunteer’s Corner
Habitat - July/August 2017 - 27
Habitat - July/August 2017 - 28
Habitat - July/August 2017 - 29
Habitat - July/August 2017 - AAA Gold Patron Member Profile: Renter’s Reference Services
Habitat - July/August 2017 - AAA Gold Patron Member Profile: BELFOR
Habitat - July/August 2017 - New Members
Habitat - July/August 2017 - 33
Habitat - July/August 2017 - Advertisers’ Index
Habitat - July/August 2017 - cover3
Habitat - July/August 2017 - cover4
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/ATPS/ATPS0119
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/ATPS/ATPS0618
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/ATPS/ATPS0518
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/ATPS/ATPS0418
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/ATPS/ATPS0318
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/ATPS/ATPS0218
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/ATPS/ATPS0118
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/ATPS/ATPS0617
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/ATPS/ATPS0517
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/ATPS/ATPS0417
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/ATPS/ATPS0317
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/ATPS/ATPS0217
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/ATPS/ATPS0117
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/ATPS/ATPS0616
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/ATPS/ATPS0516
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/ATPS/ATPS0416
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/ATPS/ATPS0316
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/ATPS/ATPS0216
https://www.nxtbookmedia.com