JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) – A Tri-Cities man was surprised to read one piece of mail recently, a letter from his property manager that says Confederate Battle Flags are not allowed to be displayed on the property.
Two tenants that live at the town homes on Rowe Lane in Johnson City say they both received the same certified letter detailing how there have been complaints about their confederate flags.
Thomas Reed says he has always flown the Confederate flag on the back of his truck.
He told WJHL News he has never had any problems, until he got a letter from his property manager this week.
Reed read WJHL News the letter he received which says in part,”These flags are not allowed to be displayed on our property. It makes some tenants uncomfortable and in once instance, it has caused a Tenant to move out.”
More than 24 hours later, Reed tells told WJHL News he is still in shock.
“I feel like he is trying to take my freedom of speech,” said Reed.
The letter from the property manager goes on to say in part: “Unless you want to pay rent of those that leave their unit because of your behavior, I suggest you “settle down” and act like adults.”
Reed also read us the part that says, “Any further breach of our rules, (read #5 and #8), will be grounds for termination of your Lease, through the court system, where you will have a number of charges and expenses for financial damages to the Owner, court costs and attorney’s fees, in addition to rent in arrears.”
We got a hold of the list of rules.
Number five on the list refers to no loud noises.
Number eight says in part that, “No tenant shall engage in any activity that may endanger another person in or on the property.”
Glen Simerly, the property manager, would not go on camera and would only give us a statement over the phone saying, “They are breaking rule number 5 and rule number 8,which they signed, and will be evicted if they continue to break those rules in 30 days from the day of the certified letter.”
We also reached out to law professor Stewart Harris who says while this is a free speech issue, it’s not a constitutional one.
“What it boils down to then is a private contract dispute, the question simply becomes what does the lease say,” said Harris.
In the end Reed says this will be an issue he takes to court.
“I guess he just assumed that we would take down the flag, lay down, and do what we are told, but I wasn’t raised that way,” said Reed.
We spoke to a second tenant who got the letter, both he and Reed plan to take this matter to court.