Author Archive

Housing Inspections The Brilliance of a No-Surprises Strategy

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

By: Nick Frantz

I once had a boss who told me it was my job to make sure he was never surprised. I thought that was odd, but over time I realized it was brilliant… because nobody likes a bad surprise.

When it comes to student housing inspections, it’s likely that nothing would surprise your team. But your inspection team is probably not your major concern. It’s your student residents—and their parents— that should not be surprised.

Housing inspections are animosity-building opportunities. It’s human nature; nobody likes to be “inspected.” Just the idea puts student residents on the defensive. And if poorly executed, students end up feeling that their privacy has been violated… and parents end up surprised by an unwelcome fine.

Communications are the key to taking the edge off the inspection process. Here are five tips to help you turn a relationship strain into an organizational gain.

1.  Use a reliable means to notify. Inspections should not be a surprise. Most states, municipalities and universities require that you give advance notice. But that doesn’t mean that students will actually receive advance notice. Posting paper notices doesn’t work. Some may actually get read, but they’re often removed before everyone gets the message. (Does anyone ever pass that information on to their parents?) Dates and times are easily forgotten. And it can take a lot of time to make the rounds manually posting notices.

Use the communication method your residents and their parents prefer: voice and text messages to cell phones, email addresses and social media sites. Everyone gets and reads text messages. Plus, they conveniently provide a written record for later reference. A message notification service makes it fast and easy to notify all your contacts with one simple message. Use it to send an initial announcement and then send a reminder notice, too. Some services provide automated translations and documentation that shows your messages were received.

2.  Set expectations. It’s a fact, people aren’t happy when their expectations are not met. Compile and publish a list of items that are not permitted (e.g. candles; flammable substances; items hanging from sprinkler heads, overloaded extension cords; blocked exit maps; items left in hallways and stairwells; etc.) Make your rules short and simple. You want them to be read. If possible, make your inspection list available.

3.  Tell them why. Publish a statement that explains the rationale for inspections: legal, safety, quality of life, resource management, etc. Make it short and easy to read and understand. Include a list of frequently asked questions and answers. For example:

  • When do inspections happen?
  • How do they work?
  • How will I be notified?
  • Will you come into my unit if I’m not there?
  • What happens if you find a violation?

4.  Eliminate the “them versus us” factor. Students are heavily engaged with social media building online communities. Make safety and resource management a community-wide effort within their residential community. Or launch a team initiative with teams by building or floor striving for the highest score. Using technology, such as a message notification service positions you as part of the community. And it also supports a “green” community initiative by eliminating paper mailings and flyers.

5.  Consider incentivizing a perfect inspection. Free stuff is good and it doesn’t have to drain your budget. Free pizza, gas cards, iTunes. Who doesn’t love an immediate, tangible reward? If volume is a concern, consider a drawing for five, ten, twenty winners.

You and your staff work hard all year to make your property a safe and desirable place to live. Attracting and keeping student residents takes an ongoing commitment, lots of time and lots of effort. It’s about more than just your property. It’s also about building relationships. Don’t let inspections threaten your hard-earned relationships. Use a proactive communication plan to position them as a legal and practical necessity that promotes a safe and healthy quality of life.

For more information regarding resident communication solutions please visit www.onecallnow.com, or call (877) 698-3262 to find out how our text, email and voice messages can work for your community.

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NickFrantz2011Nick Frantz is the National Sales Manager for Property Management Solutions at One Call Now, where he has worked since March 2011. He specializes in Property Management solutions – commercial and residential – assisting in communications between property managers and staff/residents. Nick holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Miami University.

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Income Property Management Expo

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

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Apartment News Publications Inc. is teaming up with the Income Property Management Expo to provide Apartment Owners/Managers & Commercial Property Management Companies with tools for efficient, cost effective management, operation and maintenance of their communities & facilities!

Join us May 7, 2013 for the Southern California Income Property Management Expo at the Ontario Convention Center!
Click here to Pre-Register Online!
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Southern California Attendee Information:

  • Apartment Owners
  • Property Managers
  • HOA
  • Commercial Property Management Companies
  • Service & Maintenance Staff
  • Industry Partners & Vendors

This expo will host FREE seminars throughout the day addressing CA Energy Efficiency Programs, Landlord Legal Updates, Tax Code & 1031 Exchanges, Property Maintenance and more!  The goal of the Expo is to provide attendees with the opportunity to network with other industry professionals while enjoying fine food tastings, the PGA Experience, Luxury Car Display & Test Drives, raffles & giveaways and the expo floor which will have over 100 exhibitors!

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To learn more about the Income Property Management Expo, how to attend for FREE, or learn how to reserve a booth for the Expo Floor, visit IncomePropertyExpo.com!

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Are Your People Ready to be the Face of Your Brand?

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

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By: Rommel Anacan | The Relationship Difference

Until they merged with United Airlines I made a decision that I would NEVER again fly Continental Airlines. Ever. This was all because of one bad experience I had with a member of the Continental flight crew while traveling.

After this experience whenever I saw a commercial or marketing piece for Continental, I thought of this crew member and how she treated me. No amount of colorful airline livery or fancy marketing would ever replace the fact that to me that flight attendant was Continental Airlines. And since I didn’t like my experience with her, I didn’t like the company. Period. End of story.

What does this have to do with your company?

I don’t care if your CEO has degrees from Harvard, Yale and Oxford; or if your executives have every certification given in the multi-family universe; or if your regional managers are the most intelligent and articulate groups of regionals the industry has ever seen . . . to the average customer, they are not your ‘brand.’

The people sitting behind the leasing desks are your brand. The people answering the phones at your community, responding to emails, monitoring your social media spaces and taking clients on tour are the face of your company to the average customer.

Remember your first day?

My very first property was an ultra-luxury community in Newport Beach, California. Rents for a one-bedroom home started at $1,860 and went all the way up to over $4,000 per month. Now how much time and effort do you think was spent preparing me to be the face of this mega-multi-million dollar community and of the company’s brand before I met with my first client?

One hour!

On my first day I was given the tour, handed the keys to the model and golf cart, showed where my desk was and given the book of 23 floorplans and a site map. I shadowed the business manager on one tour and then was then let loose to help customers and become the face of this iconic community.

How good do you think I was in my first 30 days? Not very. The adjustment to the property management industry was tougher than I expected. While I was a “nice guy” to everyone, I just wasn’t very good as a leasing agent in my early days. Our office was very busy, with everyone having multiple things on their plates, so I was really expected to figure things out on my own until I received my formal training a month later. Thank goodness the senior leasing agent showed me some of the ropes!

When I got the chance to manage my own community I didn’t want my people to go through what I went through. I didn’t want someone to become the face of my community and company (and me!) without preparing them for the role.

Here is what I did:

  1. I developed a leasing on-boarding program. I walked my people through all aspects of the leasing process, giving them all of the tools, techniques and secrets that I learned during my career. (Eventually my company adopted some of these ideas and created an on-boarding program for all associates.)
  2. I didn’t allow my new hires to help clients until they went through the program and felt they were ready. This period lasted anywhere from one week to two weeks, depending on the person.
  3. I personally worked with and trained my new team members because I wanted to be the dominant influence in the early stages of their careers.

I’m not going to lie, doing these meant more work for me! There were times I thought I was nuts to do this. But when the first shops came in at 90% or above, I knew it was worth it! When my leasing agents achieved things in their first couple of months that took me much longer, I knew it was worth it.

When the office could essentially run itself and I didn’t need to be involved in the minutiae, I knew it was worth it!

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RA picture 1ARommel Anacan is the president of The Relationship Difference; a corporate training, motivational speaking and consulting firm based in Orange County, California.  He is a multifamily industry veteran, having worked at all levels of the industry from onsite to corporate, where he developed a reputation for tackling common challenges in an uncommon way.

You can reach Rommel at www.RelationshipDifference.com and on Twitter @rommelanacan

Quick Community Upgrades to Get The Most Bang for Your Buck!

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

By Cathy Macaione  | Cathy Macaione Consulting Services | LinkedIn Connect

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With more apartments coming on line, it’s time to plan your interior selections upgrades. We all know that renters want to live in apartments that have a modern, updated look. Upgrading your vacant units so they have what renters want will help decrease vacancy loss. If you’re not sure what’s in demand in your area, tour new home communities, read decorating magazines and watch Home Improvement Shows to get ideas. The following are some quick tips to help you implement what you learn without breaking the bank.

CabinetDoorsHave a well thought out plan to make sure your selections will last.  Quality doesn’t always mean super expensive. Make a list of your “must-have” upgrades and devote ample room in your budget to those quality items. You can make cut backs on the “nice to have” items.

Upgrade in phases.  There’s no need to do everything at once. You can update the flooring, cabinets, counters, and lighting in each apartment as it becomes available for rent. This will enable you to spread out the cost of the investment.

Offer packages.  Offer renters two upgrade packages—one with total renovations and one with partial upgrades. For example, if you’ve already changed the cabinets, and the countertops are in good condition but the color is outdated, select a paint color that will change look and feel of the kitchen so the countertops don’t look dated. Then offer the apartment as partially upgraded.

laminateflooringInvest in flooring.  Carpeting gets ruined very easily. Make your flooring last longer by installing a laminate floor. A good selection could be a distressed wood look. It’s in style and will hide wear and tear.

Think green.  Install dual flush toilet conversion kits. They’re inexpensive at around $40 each. It is also easy and low-cost to install low-flow shower and faucet aerators. Additionally, installing fluorescent light bulbs will show a noticeable reduction in utility bills. Look for incentives and rebates to help trim costs even more.

granite1Granite for less.  Yes, you can offer granite-like countertops. My favorite sources for countertop makeovers are Giani Granite (http://www.gianigranite.com/) and Appliance Art, supplier of Instant Granite (http://www.applianceart.com/). Check them out.

Upgrades and renovations don’t have to drain your bank account or be a source of anxiety. Carefully planned upgrades can be both simple and profitable. So start your upgrade plan today to make your apartment offerings more desirable. Before you know it, you’ll have a fully leased community!


CathyMacaioneCathy Macaione, President, Cathy Macaione Consulting Services, an Apartment Marketing and Management Specialist, has more than 28 years in the Real Estate Industry.  She demonstrates her creativity and expertise through the exploration and implementation of alternative marketing methods.  Prior to starting her own consulting business, Cathy held numerous positions, ranging from leasing professional to property manager to marketing/training director, for several large management companies.

To Tow… or Not To Tow? Seven Tips to keep that from being the Question

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

By: Nick Frantz | OneCallNow.com

tow truckI don’t know a property manager who doesn’t grapple with parking issues. At best, they’re a hassle. At worst, they threaten resident safety, satisfaction and retention. They can even send you to court.

Towing may alienate a resident… but failure to act on a parking problem could alienate many residents. The best solution is a proactive approach that maximizes compliance and minimizes your need to have to make the tough decision. Here are seven tips to help ease parking woes on your property.

1.  Understand the parking and towing laws and ordinances in your state and in your municipality.

If you don’t already know the laws, an Internet search should yield results. Illegal towing can do more than damage resident relationships. It can be costly. Some states allow the court to award loss of use damages for the illegally towed vehicle. Residents have to prove their case. But win or lose, it’s going to cost you time and money.

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2.  Have proper legal signage.

Posting parking permit and restriction signs on your property is one of the most important actions you can take to ensure and enforce compliance. With effective signage, residents, visitors, staff and vendors should never have any question about where to park.

 3.  Clearly mark the parking lots and curbs.

Sometimes signs disappear, but parking lot stripes and curb paint is permanent. Mark restricted parking areas as clearly as possible; leave nothing to question.

4.  Create, publish and distribute a clear, well-defined parking policy.

Your policy should spell out—and itemize—exactly:

    • Where residents, visitors, staff and vendors may park
    • Where residents, visitors, staff and vendors may NOT park
    • Snow plow procedures
    • Your step-by-step procedure for handling vehicles that violate the parking policy (It’s a good idea to try to notify the owner, whenever possible, before a vehicle is towed. Document your attempts to notify; it will payoff)
    • Actions to take if someone finds that their car has been towed and how much it will cost

If there are seasonal issues in your area, such as snow or flooding, send timely reminders that reiterate the parking policies and procedures.

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5.  Review your parking and towing policies with your snow removal and towing vendors.

Make sure they understand that only authorized personnel from your staff can request that a vehicle be towed.

 6.  Personally address parking issues with problem residents.

Some parking infractions aren’t as defiant as they may seem to you or to other residents. When parking issues arise, one-on-one notices are far more effective than blanket reminders. It doesn’t have to be a nasty confrontation. Stay calm, refer to your parking policies and rules, and make sure the resident has a copy. Keep a record of your resident contact with the date, time and content.

 7.  Communicate regularly and always document.

Managing your property is your job. But your residents have their own jobs, busy—often hectic—lives, and lots on their minds. Make sure your parking rules don’t slip their minds. Proper signage, marked parking spaces and curbs, a published policy, personal reminders and community-wide announcements all work together to minimize slippage.

It’s important to document all your parking compliance efforts.  Take photos of your signage, parking lot, curb markings and any instances of policy violations. Keep a record of all your communications to your residents, whether community-wide or one-on-one. Your documentation should show dates, times, and message content. It should also confirm that your residents received your communications. If a conflict or legal issue arises, all of these will work in your favor.

The name of the game here is to maximize parking compliance and minimize towing instances. It takes a proactive approach, vigilance and a commitment to regular communications with your residents.

For more information regarding resident communication solutions please visit www.onecallnow.com, or call (877) 698-3262 to find out how our text, email and voice messages can work for your community.

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NickFrantz2011Nick Frantz is the National Sales Manager for Property Management Solutions at One Call Now, where he has worked since March 2011. He specializes in Property Management solutions – commercial and residential – assisting in communications between property managers and staff/residents. Nick holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Miami University.

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Five Things You Can Do To Effectively Manage Resident Complaints

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

By: Rommel Anacan | The Relationship Difference

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Have you ever heard the statement, “Customer service would be easy if it weren’t for those customers?” Sometimes that is just too true, isn’t it?

After all we know that sometimes residents:

  • Don’t read their leases
  • Don’t think their leases actually apply to them
  • Cause the problem then get mad at you for the problem
  • Can be unreasonable
  • Can be dishonest
  • And on and on and on and on

The challenge that you face is even if a complaining resident is all of the above, you still have to deal with the situation don’t you? In other words, the fact that a resident may be all of the above doesn’t mean that you can just brush off their complaints. Well you could try but then you still have ‘Harold’ standing in the middle of the leasing office wondering why he can’t “speak to the manager!”

So what can you do…or what can you encourage your teams to do to manage these situations? After being in contact with thousands of people during my career, both onsite and at corporate, I have isolated FOUR effective things that people can do when someone complains.

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One: Help the customer feel important

The most important “people-skill” that I believe all of us should learn is how to make other people feel important. If you are able to make an unhappy resident feel important, you will go a long way towards resolving any issues, even before you get to resolving the issue.

I cannot tell you how many times I spoke with people who just needed to vent and feel as if they were important enough to be heard. And even when I couldn’t give these people what they asked for,  I still got lots of “thank yous” and even some apologies after I took the time to make sure they felt important.

Two: Remember it’s not a battle

One of the most common mistakes that associates make is approaching a customer complaint as if it were a battle to be won or lost. How many times have you seen this when you’ve lodged a complaint with a company? Don’t you often want to say, “Look I’m not the enemy here, I’m just unhappy about this!”

A battle with a resident is battle you cannot win, even if you’re right. And the issue shouldn’t be about trying to prove who is “right” and who is “wrong” but how the issue may be resolved.

And the more you fight with a customer, the less important you make them feel . . . which means they will continue to do what they have to do to prove they are important!

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Three: Lose the snark

Four: Use some warmth

When someone has a complaint, she often braces for “impact.” In other words, she expects the associate may give her some grief (especially if the resident secretly knows she was in the wrong), so she is prepared to dish it right back.

Remember that scene in the movie Top Gun when one of the pilots says, “I’m going to guns!” An upset resident is often prepared to go to guns…so when an associate fires a round of snark, the resident is prepared to pull the trigger.

Not the best way to diffuse a situation, huh?

When you’re genuinely warm and sincere with a customer, that can immediately diffuse things. I mean, how can someone argue with, “I’m so sorry. I see that we really fell short and I’d love to see what we can do to help you.”

business help or solution to problem isolated on whiteFive: Look for solutions

As I talked about earlier, associates often see these situations as battles to be won; so the search for solutions takes a back seat to putting the customer in his place. But the truth is, there are always solutions to be found aren’t there?

Sure, sometimes the solutions are not what the customer wanted initially, or what associates were able to do initially…but there are solutions everywhere. You just have to be willing to look for them.

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RA picture 1ARommel Anacan is the president of The Relationship Difference; a corporate training, motivational speaking and consulting firm. His passion is helping people succeed by helping them improve the quality of their relationships. He is a multi-family housing veteran, having worked at all levels of the industry from onsite to corporate, where he developed a reputation for solving common industry challenges in an uncommon way.

You can reach Rommel at www.RelationshipDifference.com and on Twitter @rommelanacan

Apartment Gardening for Kids

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

By: Nicholas Walker

Apartment living does not mean that you have to give up gardening; it just means that you have to be more creative with space and more thoughtful of what you choose to grow. The same goes for pint size apartment dwellers; tending to a garden is a great way for kids to learn about the earth and gain pride in themselves as they work hard to take care of something. Growing a mini garden sized just right for an apartment is easy and here are some ideas for a miniature plot:

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1. First of all it is important to evaluate the amount of space there is available.  If there is no balcony or any outside area connected to the apartment then step inside, it is amazing where a garden can grow; kitchen window sills, bathroom shelves, tabletops, sunny corners where plants can thrive.  Once the decision about where to grow the garden has been made then what to grow comes next and the choices are many.

2.  Making a miniature garden that kids can tend can is as simple as purchasing a few small pots of indoor plants and flowers and clustering them together in one area, African violets, cyclamen, hibiscus and orchids are great choices and have color and yummy aromas which kids love.   Choose a container and fill it with succulents, add pebbles and rocks for a southwestern feel that will definitely bring some sunshine into a winter home. Avoid prickly cacti or little hands could get hurt when looking after their garden, stick to aloe plants  and smooth leafed desert cacti;  the great news about succulents is that they are hardy, low maintenance and look interesting, a triple whammy of miniature cool.

3.  Growing a garden from a seed is always a winner; it opens up a wonderful opportunity to teach kids all about where food comes from and the importance of looking after our planet.  As the plants grow, so will the joy that kids get from tending to their indoor plot.  It is a relatively inexpensive way to start a garden but it is more time consuming and seeds need a lot of care in the beginning to survive.

4. An indoor herb garden is a great idea as well and all you need is a window ledge and some light and you are in the miniature gardening business, which means big fun for kids. Herbs are fast growing and hardy, they smell yummy and taste delicious too so they are a wonderful introduction to sustainable gardening for kids; eating what you grow has always been very cool. Some good herbs to grow are mint, rosemary, basil, cilantro, thyme, lemongrass and oregano.

5.  Tabletop gardening is a great use of small space, all that is needed is a pot, soil and sunlight and you are good to grow. Growing a mini tropical garden is as easy as picking a coconut, plant some miniature bamboo, miniature palm trees and aromatic orchids to make a tropical jungle garden fit for an apartment.

Apartment gardening for kids is fun, affordable and environmentally conscious, three good reasons to get growing.

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NickWalkerNicholas Walker is one of the world’s most accomplished garden designer- builders. Nicholas is a member of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers and the Garden Writer’s Association of America. His partnership in Jardin, of  kathy ireland Worldwide (kiWW), has established him as one of America’s most celebrated and innovative leaders, in the design community.  He speaks on sustainability, the environment and a healthy, greener lifestyle.

His stunning works of art have been featured in magazines, such as the historic Elizabeth Taylor gardens’ inArchitectural DigestMetropolitan Home, Sunset MagazineGarden DesignForbes and LA Times Magazine. He is also a contributor, to Good Housekeeping Do it Yourself, Woman, Furniturefind.com and kathyireland.com.

Media Apperances:

Oprah, HGTV | Forbes Magazine | Architectural Digest- The Private World of Elizabeth Taylor | Casual Living | Gardens of Inspiration | Sustanable Living Council Dwell on Design | Craftsman Radio | Bella Petite Magazine

 

Gotcha! Yelp Cracking Down on Paid Reviews, Making Review Management Critical

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

Submitted by www.Chatmeter.com

Review based websites, like Yelp and TripAdvisor, have always been popular with customers when it comes to picking products and service. They give the customer the opportunity to read what people just like them think of something. They aren’t hearing the bias reviews of the company; they are hearing it from the people who actually use the product/service. 84% of Americans say online reviews have an influence on their decision to purchase a product or service. This statistic makes review management that much more important.

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Although most companies do not like these types of review sites, they are necessary and are not going away, so they need to respond in an appropriate manner to negative reviews. Instead of investing in legitimate brand management companies, like chatmeter, some places like to cheat the system and buy reviews, which ultimately is deceitful and deceiving for the consumer. People will read the fake reviews, thinking that they are from real customers, and may make their decision whether to buy or not. These tactics are not only unfair to the consumer but they are also unfair to the competition. This is a form of “black hat” review management and Yelp is taking a stand against it.

Yelp has always had review filters, which weeds out fake reviews through an algorithmic process. Unfortunately, real reviews are sometimes picked out by this process and tagged as fake reviews. This can be incredibly frustrating for businesses because the filter deletes their hard earned reviews and makes review management even harder. Yelp’s first priority is ensuring that the customer gets the most legitimate information so sometimes it’s the business that loses out.

In an effort to stop these fake reviews, Yelp will start posting a “consumer alert” that will say, “We caught someone red-handed trying to buy reviews for this business.” The alert will be posted on the offender’s page for all to see. It will have a link showing the consumer exactly which reviews are fake, as well as the company’s emails trying to hire reviewers. Yelp says the alerts will be posted for 90 days (longer of the company continues to post fake reviews).

Businesses need to know that buying positive reviews is not the only way to improve your online reputation. Although they may think it will help them, being caught will hurt them even more.  Consumers will remember that they were a deceitful company and take that into consideration when looking for that product/service again. Ignoring the negative comments and trying to bury them with positive ones is only a quick fix to their online reputation and there ultimately a bigger problem with in the company. Companies need to understand that they can’t sweep their problems under the rug and pretend that everything is perfect. Companies need to respond to negative reviews and let the unhappy customer know that their comments will be taken into consideration in the future to help improve whatever needs to be fixed. By responding, it shows that you care about their feedback and that you are actually going to do something about it. This is what managing you online reputation and a business is all about.

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As the first Local Brand Management (LBM) platform, we help large franchises and agencies with hundreds of locations measure and improve their marketing effectiveness. This is actionable local intelligence that has never been available before. With the fragmentation of local search marketing today, it’s become impossible for agencies and national retailers to properly manage the brand at the local level. The chatmeter service measures the online marketing effectiveness for each location by analyzing its online visibility and reputation, benchmarks its performance against other local competitors, and provides personalized recommendations for improvement via a simple dashboard and daily email alerts. Armed with this information, marketers can understand which locations and channels to focus their efforts. By taking ownership of online visibility and the customer experience, marketers can have can have a significant positive impact on reaching new customers.


Could You be in Violation of Fair Housing Laws without Even Realizing It?

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

By: Elizabeth Whited | www.therrd.com

fiarhousingAs we all well know, the Fair Housing Act prohibits any type of discrimination from Real Estate Professionals when choosing who to rent their property or unit to in regards to race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, family status or national origin, and in some counties: section 8 voucher status (www.tenantsunion.org). But what about disparate impact?

Disparate impact is the legal theory that people of certain races and ethnicities are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system. This theory was previously used in regards to employment, but in recent years has moved into the real estate industry as well. The theory states that the use of criminal records for tenant screening purposes has a disparate impact on certain minorities who have been disproportionately represented in the legal system, and who therefore have criminal records that could be used to determine that they should not be rented to. Fair Housing Advocates argue that in effect, while you may be following all Fair Housing Laws, and screening every applicant, you could be inadvertently discriminating against certain minorities (Wikipedia).

The Landlord Times gives a great example: “…a property management company has a policy of charging a set rental amount for the first three residents in a household, plus $100 per month for each additional resident. This policy, although applied equally to all applicants and residents, will have a disproportionately negative effect on families with children, and thus likely violates fair housing laws. Similarly, a policy of denying rental to everyone who has any criminal record may have a disparate impact on certain protected class groups (such as race, national origin, and disability).”

On the other side of that argument are landlords and owners who want to protect their tenants, as well as their staff from those who have committed crimes in the past (be it on a property, or not). Another question that is being debated by certain states is should applicants who have a criminal history be immediately rejected, even if it is not directly related to an on-property offence? This issue also arose in employment screening, and a few states have made amends to only deny an applicant if they can directly relate the crime to the specific job the applicant applied for. They also argue that being a convicted criminal does not put a person into any protected class.

Another law that you could begin to see take hold in other states is the Fair Tenant Screening Act, passed in Washington, which compels landlords to share the reasons behind obtaining certain information required from applicants that is used during the screening process. If a landlord or owner does not disclose this information, then they themselves must pay for the screening fee, even if a third party tenant screening company is used. The owner must also easily identify what criteria for that particular property will fail an applicant. If an adverse action follows a screening report, then the manager or landlord must notify the applicant in writing if it is a direct result of any of the following conclusions:

  • Information contained in a consumer report
  • The consumer credit report did not contain sufficient information
  • Information received from previous rental history or reference
  • Information received in a criminal record
  • Information received from an employment verification (www.walandlord.com)

A few screening companies out there already offer adverse action letters, and lists of criteria needed from applicants that will be used in their screening process. If criminals cause problems on a property, then future landlords and property managers have a right to know. This does not mean however, that they will not be rented to, but sharing this type of information can be beneficial to all parties involved. Any sort of “black list” of who not to rent to posted online, written, or read aloud in any capacity is illegal, because there is no addendum to inform the tenants, evidence, and no appeals on behalf of the tenant.

Do your research, and make sure to find a database that utilizes all of these tools and is Fair Credit Reporting Act compliant for a completely legal way to share information about tenants. To stay up to date on new amendments and additions to the Fair Housing Law, please visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website, or see a list of landlord/tenant laws broken down by state.

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RentRiteDirectoryLogoFinal USE THIS ONEAbout the Author: Elizabeth Whited is the Operations Coordinator at the Rent Rite Directory. She has written educational articles for multifamily magazines and Real Estate websites to help Property Managers and Owners improve their properties, in an effort to reduce crime in their communities. The Rent Rite Directory educates Property Managers and Owners at Crime Watch Meetings, and Crime Free Association Conferences, and works closely with law enforcement nationwide. For more information, visit www.therrd.com.

Elizabeth Whited 1-855-733-2289, ewhited@therrd.com

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