Thursday, March 12, 2015

This Apartment Complex Must Be AWFUL If Owners Threaten To Charge Tenants $10,000 For Bad Reviews

Windemere Cay apartments in Florida tried
to obtain right to fine tenants $10,000 for negative reviews
and tried to claim copyrights for any photos
tenants took in or at the complex.  
Owners of an apartment complex in Florida are deservedly being ripped to shreds on social media, and now on main stream media for their threats to charge tenants big money if they criticize the place on line.  

The apartment complex owners also laughably tried to say they own the copywright on any photos tenants take in, or of the building.

The publication broke the story, and it's one of the most hamhanded attempts I've see to control what people say on line.

Businesses or other entities who say they will fine people for posting negative reviews are on extremely shaky legal ground. An online retailer, KlearGear had to pay more than $300,000 to a couple that KlearGear tried to fine because the pair wrote a negative review.

Plus, if these outfits have to threaten people with hefty fines for criticizing their goods or services, the logical conclusion, fair or not, is that these goods or services are pretty lousy.

Still, we do see people trying this stunt anyway.

The apartment complex, called Windemere Cay says it abandoned the policy a year ago, but a tenant said he was handed a lease agreement with the conditions earlier this month.

Other conditions of the lease agreement are way, way over the top. The owners of the apartment building claimed the copywright to "any and all written or photographic works regarding the Owner, the Unit, the property or the apartments."

So if your kid has a birthday party in one of the apartments and you snap some pictures of the goings on, the apartment landlords own the photos.

Or so they think, anyway.

The apartment managers should hope they don't get sued over these attempts at controlling tenants' speech, law experts say.

According to Arstechnica:

"'Not only is such a contract unenforceable, but it could expose anyone promulgating it to legal repercussions,' Santa Clara University Law Professor Eric Goldman explained.

'It would be a terrible idea to enforce this in court. A judge is going to shred it,' Goldman said."

The fee Windemere Cay proposed for dissing the place on social media was pretty steep --- $10,000 to be paid within five business days.

Like that would ever happen.

Arstechica also says businesses that try to enforce these contracts might run afoul of federal law because of unfair and deceptive business practices.

What gets me is how the managers at Windemere Cay didn't think there would be a firestorm, even thought they seemed to understand a boneheaded move on social media could cost them.

In the lease agreement they tried to foist on tenants, the document said of negative social media posts "Such postings can cripple a business by creating a false impression in the eyes of consumers. The damages resulting from this false impression can include potentially millions of dollars in economic losses........"

They didn't think Windemere Cay would get a lot of negativity when this proposed lease agreement came to light? They're not that smart, are they?

Forbes magazine had four straightforward rules to avoid social media firestorms that are really just common sense.  One is to not go screaming to the attorneys and launch a lawsuit against critics. That just amplifies what a jerk you are.

Also, reach out directly to the people complaining to try to make things right. You might even turn that person  into your advocate if you treat them well. Even when you make a small mistake with a customer and they call you on it, fix the problem fast. And make it easy for customers to reach you if they have a question or concern.

Pretty basic, right?

With all the publicity, I don't imagine Windemere Cay will try to enforce the lease.  

Still, if I ever move to Florida, though, I can tell you I won't be looking for a place to live at Windemere Cay.

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