Maplewood Homeowner’s Association
Two years ago, Susan Rowe started a private Facebook group for residents of the community she lives in, but last fall, the Homeowner’s Association (HOA) sent her notice that she may not use the subdivision’s name as the group’s title, according to WSMV-TV in Nashville. Rowe complied and changed the name of the group to “Residents of Maplewood” to clear up any confusion.
The group is a popular place for residents to connect for babysitters, pet sitters, social gatherings and the like. Last week, she received a letter threatening a lawsuit if she did not remove the subdivision’s name from the private (invitation only, the public cannot see) Facebook group. “When I received the letter in the mail, I just felt very bullied,” Rowe told WSMV-TV.
The HOA’s lawyer (paid through HOA dues, thus by the residents themselves) said in an interview, “I don’t think there’s an attempt to censor what she has on that site, merely, they didn’t want to cause confusion over the association’s site and something else [with the same name].”
Rowe says the HOA told her directly that they want control over the Facebook page so they can monitor activity and delete any negative posts. The lawyer says the HOA has concerns that negative comments will affect home values.
Can they do this?
This is not the first time an entity has threatened legal actions for community members creating Facebook groups, websites, Twitter handles, and the like, and most seek to censor content by stepping in or fear a lack of control, but in this case it seems that it is equally likely that the page is popular and well run and would be an ideal place for an HOA to insert itself rather than build their own community, but there is no way to tell motive on either side.
It is curious, however, that Rowe changed the name to avoid brand confusion and complied. Would there not be more confusion over which Maplewood the residents live in? What about Maplewood, New Jersey, or Maplewood, Minnesota, or Maplewood, Missouri, or the Maplewood neighborhood in Rochester, New York.
Or if it is a matter of confusion over the name, maybe there is also confusion as to whether the group is about a subdivision or the band Maplewood, or the Maplewood farm in Berlin, or the Maplewood Inn Bed and Breakfast in Vermont, or the Maplewood Stables in Nevada, or Maplewood Software, or Maplewood Lanes in Omaha, or Maplewood Organics in Vermont, or Maplewood Meats in Wisconsin, or hey, maybe the maple wood tree.
No one pays to be a member of a private Facebook group and Rowe is not making money by helping connect her community, so it seems the best move for the HOA would be to drop the lawsuit and become a member of the group – not to censor but to be aware, involved and helpful and possibly even be a value added and be around for questions or heck, even comments.
Rowe should not relinquish the group to this HOA, nor should she be bullied by the HOA her dues support, rather they should be clear about their intentions and work with the homeowners who just want to know where the next BBQ is.