Making it Easy to Love Online Leasing
The gasps resonated across the room when one gentleman told his story of a near miss of sensitive information being compromised.
He recalled that the phone call that day appeared to be like any other coming into a leasing office. But the caller wasn’t looking for an apartment. Instead, a detective informed him that about a dozen boxes with the property’s name on them were found in a nearby hotel room.
The boxes, which contained sensitive property and resident information, were uncovered in a theft ring sting. They had been heisted from a storage room at the property, and the thieves arranged the rest of the boxes in the room so it would appear everything was undisturbed. The property had no idea they’d been stolen, or when.
Luckily, the boxes were still sealed.
“We reclaimed the boxes, but we came so close to having a huge situation from not purging, to not even giving hard thought to where these things were located,” said the gentleman, who shared his story from the audience at a RealWorld session on online property management systems. “Paper represents a tremendous liability.”
J.P. Gaconnier can relate. RealPage’s new Director of Online Leasing shared a similar tale while moderating the session, “Making it Easy to Love Leasing”. Not long ago, he moved into an apartment and his college-aged daughter came to live. Lease terms stipulated she fill out an application to reside with her father. The property didn’t use an online application.
Three days later, Gaconnier strolled into the office and saw his daughter’s application laying on a desk, for everyone to see. Social security number. Birthdate. Both exposed, along with other sensitive information.
“Those are things you don’t think about,” he said. “That’s a risk for you as a property manager, and it also creates trust issues. You need to build trust with your residents because trust is relationship factor that will make them stay.”
Encrypted information reduces risk of compromising information
Operations and training specialists conveyed similar messages that online property management systems enable properties to manage critical information more safely and create a secure experience for not just residents but property owners and managers. Because sensitive information is encrypted, the likelihood of it falling into the wrong hands or being left on a desk for the world to see is far less than with a paper trail.
Such protection provides a comfort for apartment operators, plus eliminates the need to destroy paper records so stored information isn’t compromised. Those are key advantages to online leasing and property management, said panelist Kristen Dudzak, an operations specialist at ZRS Management, a Florida-based, apartment and multifamily property management company
“At one point, we had files upon files located on the property, and that’s very scary,” she said. “The other thing is only having senior level employees being able to access sensitive information. Having that information out there for anybody to obtain can be scary.”
Managing leases, payments are safe and convenient
Morgan Group Software and Training Specialist Jamie Proffitt agreed. She said the company no longer has an issue with the leasing agent leaving information on a desk. It’s all housed in the property management system and only accessible by certain employees.
Proffitt said online leasing not only protects information but offers added convenience for residents and prospects during leasing and renewal processes. The necessary “paperwork” can be filled out in the convenience of a resident’s or prospect’s own home and not just being restricted to the leasing office’s business hours.
“We are now open 24 hours a day,” she said. “That’s the best part. Our customers don’t have to wait until those leasing office doors are open.
“From a customer perspective, most people want to go on line, browse, check it out for themselves. Being at home and having that ease of use, they don’t have to hand info over to leasing agent that they’re not sure if it’s going to be secure. Now leasing office can concentrate on that customer service residents deserve.”
With an accompanying online resident and payment portal, the story is much the same. ZRS Management no longer has payment drop boxes at its properties. Residents securely pay rent via their desktop computer, laptop, smartphone or personal device.
Online property management systems a must-have
Gaconnier says making apartment leasing and payment processes more secure is a must-have and not a convenience for property managers.
After all, who wants to get that phone call from the police department or see their kid’s personal information laying on a desk?