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Those neighborhood websites can sink deals

NEW YORK – Dec. 2, 2015 – Neighbors increasingly turn to the Internet to vent about one another, their homeowner’s associations or boards. But these public rants can dampen a neighborhood’s reputation, and possibly even affect property values.
“Social media has given people more platforms to speak their minds, especially since they can do it behind closed doors – they don’t have to face the people that they’re arguing with,” says Stacey R. Patterson, a real estate lawyer who represents condos and co-ops in New York and New Jersey to The New York Times. “Between chat rooms and Facebook pages, you set up anything and you can start a war.”
You can also land in a lawsuit. In a recent case in Brooklyn, N.Y., residents disgruntled with their co-op board launched public websites that criticized board members and the way the building is managed. The board members, in response, filed defamation lawsuits.
“As more buildings get a web presence and people generally become more web aware, you’re going to start having your dissident fights on the Internet,” says Dean M. Roberts, the corporate counsel for Trump Village Section 4, a complex in Coney Island, Brooklyn, where three-bedroom apartments sell for around $450,000. At Trump Village Section 4, residents launched a website, TV4 United or TV4News.org. The board members sued some of the residents for defamation based on comments, such as “why we let a dirty no good politicians [sic] destroy our investment?”
A judge ruled this summer the case had enough merit to proceed.
Some property managers and board members say these websites allow renters and homeowners to vent, but they can be misleading and jeopardize home sales.
“What do you do when Ms. O’Leary, the crazy cat woman in 5C, starts putting up these postings and you’re trying to sell your apartment?” Roberts says. “It’s hard to delineate the truthfulness of some Internet stuff because crazy cat woman’s comments look the same as the board president’s comments.”
Review sites such as Yelp have also become a popular place to post critical comments about various apartment complexes.
Some real estate professionals say they believe the sites may be costing them deals.
“I’ve had good sales there, but could I have had better sales? Could I have had more buyers? I don’t know,” says John Cerrone, a salesman at Douglas Elliman. “To say that people are openly expressing dissatisfaction and to say that cannot have an effect, I think that’s naïve.”
Source: “When Neighbors Tangle Online,” The New York Times (Nov. 6, 2015)
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