Residents concerned over social media policy banning negative reviews

MISSOURI CITY, Texas -- Residents of Plantation at Quail Valley in Missouri City recently had a social media addendum posted on each of their doors.

ABC13 Eyewitness News was alerted by a woman who received the letter.

The letter says in part, "applicant shall not post negative commentary or reviews."

The letter went on to say, the "applicant agrees that Owner shall determine whether or not the commentary is harmful" and "breach of this social media addendum will be $10,000 for first such breach and an additional $5,000 for each subsequent breach."

"They're just really picking on us seniors," said the woman, who didn't want to be identified. "That's really wrong."

Steve Shellist, a local attorney who is not associated with the apartment complex, weighed in with his thoughts on the contract.

"What they're trying to get you to waive is really your right to free speech," said Shellist.

Plantation at Quail Valley is community for people 55 and older.

"Courts are not going to be real keen to uphold businesses rights to prevent people from exercising their right to free speech," said Shellist.

The apartment complex owner, ParaWest, responded to the contract and released the following statement:

"The social media addenda is a document we have utilized for several years now. It is not an attempt to prevent negative social media posts, rather a tool to prevent inaccurate and intentionally misleading posts that would be an unfair detriment to our business. If someone is not happy about their personal experience at a community, we make every effort to resolve the issue. If they choose to still post a negative review, so long as it is based in fact, we would not attempt or request to have it taken down.

This addenda is only utilized for new move in's and residents upon renewal of their lease contract. We would never attempt to change the terms of a residents lease contract during their contract. It appears that this manager completed a file audit and found that this form was missing in their files. She did send these notices to their doors in error. This addenda should only be included in the lease renewal or new lease files. We will be sending a letter out today to advise the residents of the error and advise them to disregard it at this time."

The Houston Apartment Association said residents are not obligated to sign anything they get in the middle of their lease.

Despite that, the woman who received the letter thinks the contract isn't fair.

"This is censorship to me in its highest form and that's nothing that anybody should sit here and tolerate," she said. "You should always speak up and stand up for yourself."
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