If you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all. Sadly, that old adage applies to creating a social media presence, as a landlord in Salt Lake City recently discovered.
An employee allegedly pinned notices on tenants’ doors informing them of a new lease addendum that required each tenant to ‘friend’ the apartment complex on Facebook. Anyone who refused would be held in violation of the lease agreement. Tenants were given five days to comply.
Additionally, the complex allegedly demanded a legal release from each tenant that allowed managers to take photos of tenants and their guests and share them online.
Tenants responded by publicly bashing the Facebook policy and the reputation of this apartment community. Some tenants went to the local news. Within hours after that local story broke, news agencies from across the country and overseas were picking it up.
Comments not only were unflattering, but many revealed information that the complex likely would have preferred to keep quiet. For instance, a disgruntled tenant pointed out that the complex has a failing grade with the Better Business Bureau. Another person, who apparently is not a tenant, posted a 25 minute-long YouTube rant. Perhaps most harmful, however, were the comments made on major apartment rating websites, including Google. Prospective tenants now will see complaints like chronic problems with pests, crime, and noise at the complex.
In addition to the bad press, a local attorney suggested to reporters that the policy may be discriminatory. Not everyone has a Facebook account or even Internet access, he points out. He also argues that the lease amendment may not be binding under contract law, so any attempt at penalizing tenants could be illegal.
Many tenants are calling the measure a violation of their privacy. Some will not be renewing their leases.
As of last week, the landlord had taken a positive step by posting responses to many of the highly-visible negative comments. For example, the company has walked back the Facebook policy, indicating that it was never intended to be mandatory. It explains that the photo release was a misunderstanding, and coincided with a marketing pitch touting the pool at a resident gathering. Prospective tenants are assured that “strict procedures” are followed in various aspects of property management.
Online reputation is increasingly important for all landlord businesses. Most tenants now search for vacancies online. The best way to enjoy good ratings is organically — by providing good service. Good reviews will net good tenants who will care for the property and share in a sense of community.
This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.