In today’s world of advanced technology, the internet has become the go-to place to share everything. No matter the opinion, you will find countless examples of social media posts, emails, or blog articles elaborating on it.
As it turns out, community associations are not immune to this. Take, for example, the case of James Schutt, who was sued by his HOA for posting comments on his personal blog that criticized the association’s Board of Directors. The board of Fiddler’s Creek claimed that the comments of Schutt, 81, were defaming the HOA’s reputation. The irony in situations like this is that the association is using assessments paid by its own homeowners to … sue one of its own homeowners.
It is not rare to find a blog or other website that contains negative comments or views about the author’s community association. Often times the authors are very frustrated with the level of service they are receiving from their association and feel that their opinion is overlooked, turning to digital outlets to vent. As with anything else in life, there is a right way and a wrong way to respond to situations of this nature. Hopefully, this article will guide you in the right direction.
First, you need to see what people are saying online about your association. Luckily, this isn’t difficult. You can easily keep tabs on what is being said about your HOA or condo with email alerts. A service such as Google Alerts, which is free, allows you to specify a search term, which in this case would be the name of your association. Whenever the association’s name pops up in a blog article or on a website, the service will send you an email with a link to that post or website. Social Mention is a similar tool which allows you to search major social media outlets for a given phrase or keyword. It is highly advisable to utilize these free services to “keep your ears low to the ground” to what is being said about your community.
If you do have negative posts or articles about your association there are things you can do to help. If the claims made are true or contain pieces of the truth, it is recommended that you respond to them. This indicated the taking of responsibility, which is always valued. The key points to emphasize in your response should be that the Board of Directors are listening to and value the poster’s opinion. If possible, try to understand the poster’s situation. Make your best attempt at explaining the reasoning behind the decision made, or whatever the cause may be. Always try to provide a solution and to emphasize the positive elements of any situation.
Legal action should always be a last resort and only when absolutely necessary. In order to successfully sue for defamation certain, the post, or website, etc., must have actually caused loss or damage to the association. This could include the loss of money or the demonstrated fact that a reputation has been harmed. Without this proof, defamation cases are highly unlikely to succeed. However, by being proactive and doing a little research, you should be able to stay on top of your community association’s online reputation and maintain an open line of communication between your HOA board and the residents it serves.