SOCIAL MEDIA
Dealing with the “F” Word:  How Your Community Association Can Maximize the Good of Facebook While
Minimizing the Bad
By Brady Ortego, CMCA, Attorney
Roberts Markel Weinberg Butler Hailey, PC





Mr. Ortego is a shareholder within the firm’s Real Estate Section and manages a team of professionals and paraprofessionals that assist their clients in all aspects of Community Association Law. His practice focuses on representing developers in acquisition of large tracts of land and guides them through the creation of master planned communities throughout Texas. Mr. Ortego also counsels Boards of Directors of condominium associations, and both residential and commercial community associations through corporate issues, litigation avoidance, collection / foreclosure, bankruptcy and complex contractual negotiations. He also works with several lenders in providing financing to community associations for large scale improvement projects. Additionally, Mr. Ortego oversees complex commercial real estate transactions.


Practice Areas

Real Estate
Real Estate Transactions
Community Association Law
Bankruptcy


Education

J.D., South Texas College of Law, 2003
Order of the Lytae
AmJur/Cali Award (Civil Procedure, Contracts II)
Academic Merit Scholarship
Vinson & Elkins Public Interest Scholarship

South Texas College of Law Enhancement Scholarship
South Texas College of Law General Scholarship

Listed, “Who’s Who Among American Law Students”

B.S., Stephen F. Austin State University, 1999

Honors and Awards
Listed, Thomson Reuters Super
Lawyers
"Rising Stars" (Edition 2008)

Listed, “Professionals on the Fast Track” H Texas Magazine (2009)

“Who’s Who Among American Law Students”

 

Affiliations
Member, Houston Bar Association


Bar Admissions
State Bar of Texas

United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas

2800 Post Oak Blvd.
Suite 5777
Houston, TX 77056
713.780-4135
[email protected]






As a community association lawyer, I am continuously amazed at the number of questions I field that I never envisioned as a law student. One of those questions centers on the use of Facebook or other forms of social media by community associations. There is not a specific set of statutes code; yet, in the past two years, the use of social media by community associations has garnered a tremendous amount of attention and legal inquiry. In fact, my legal opinion on an association’s use of Facebook or social media has changed in that short time period.

In the not so distant past, I rarely, if ever, counseled my clients to use Facebook as a source for dissemination of community information. The basis of this opinion centered on the inherent inability to control the postings and the potential that, if posts were censored, users would raise First Amendment free speech rights. 

More recently, I find my opinion shifting. The basis for the shift centers on the inevitability that someone will create a Facebook page that either, coincidentally or intentionally, looks like an official page of the community association. What is often coupled with an unofficial community association Facebook page is, at best, inaccurate information and, at worst, defamation and misrepresentation. When the initial idea behind a Facebook page is to bring the community closer together, a few bad actors or inaccurate postings can quickly tear a community apart.

In one experience, a user on an unofficial Facebook page posted that a green space in the back of the community would be the location of a new swimming pool and recreation center. The buzz throughout the community regarding the new facilities soared and was evident on the Facebook page. Fairly soon, management and board members began to receive inquires as to the construction schedule and estimated completion date. Unfortunately, the posting was wholly inaccurate and the board and community manager were surprised to hear of the user’s post. The community management and board members found themselves spending an inordinate amount of time dissuading the rumor. In most cases, the owners felt cheated and angry with management and the board as if they were connected to a decision not to build the pool and recreation center. Remember, there never were any plans to construct a swimming pool or recreation center. The user on the unofficial Facebook posting  concocted the idea and it was completely false.  Community resources were wasted and community spirit eroded all the direct result of an inaccurate Facebook posting.

On the other side, I understand that user posting on another unofficial Facebook page proved crucial for some owners in dealing with the wildfires that occurred across Texas in recent years.  In many cases, the user postings on Facebook provided more accurate real time reports of the fires than the media coverage. When used properly, Facebook can be an asset to a community. Now the question becomes: How can we ensure that a Facebook page is use properly?

Community association boards should consider adopting a policy related to use of Facebook or any other form of social media and then creating its own official Facebook or social media. With a policy in place and ownership of the Facebook or social media the association will be able to control the content and remove the bad but keep the good.  Given that the site belongs to the association, owners must request to become users, and must adhere to a “terms of use” agreement; the association can control the content without offending free speech rights. The end result is social media as an asset rather than a liability.




 
 

Classic Property Management is licensed by the Texas Real Estate Commission
TX License #417538
©2014 by Classic Property Management AAMC®
Privacy policy