Protecting residents’ personal information and privacy aren’t new concerns for property managers. After two decades of widespread Internet use, and improved technology, guarding personal data online still presents challenges.

Marketing, Personalization and Privacy

Studies show that brand marketing and personalization strategies deliver to a business’s bottom line. Translated into property management terms, that means happier residents, lower vacancy averages and higher retention rates.

Mobile users in North America are predicted to reach 287 million by 2017, according to Mashable projections. Apartment managers wisely engage in marketing strategies that include advanced information collection techniques and mobile campaigns to cement relationships and build new ones.

The residential rental market clearly benefits from integrating advanced data collection and personalization strategies. The National Multifamily Housing Council cautions that these benefits come with increased risk for data breach. Though risks exists, managing collected information and employee training mitigate those risks for property owners.

Internal Strategies

  • To make sure you are doing all you can to protect tenant privacy, create strong internal policies.
  • Establish company policies that limit employees’ access to sensitive electronic and paper information to designated personnel.
  • Change passwords and pin numbers every thirty to sixty days, and anytime a key employee transfers, retires or is otherwise terminated.
  • Protect digital data with computer locks and passwords.
  • Secure printed documents and digital storage devices in locked file cabinets.
  • Invest in a commercial shredder or contract with a document shredding company to dispose of outdated documents annually.
  • Evaluate bring-your-own device rules and current policies for social media engagement on company-owned digital devices.

Training for Resident Privacy

Employee training is an essential component of developing a strong internal plan to protect personal information. Before you implement a new training policy, ask yourself these questions. Do your employees know how to respond to a request for information from residents? From law enforcement? In emergencies?

Protecting personal information requires advanced planning and coordination efforts. Creating an information sharing protocol for your employees ensures they are ready to respond, especially in emotional and emergency situations.

Beyond Digital Information

As new technologies and devices emerge in the future, expect data mining and storage issues to follow, but don’t ignore the role face-to-face communication has in managing privacy.

Every leasing office needs a designated area for discreet discussions with residents and potential renters. Employees must protect sensitive information gathered and discussed during the application and lease renewal processes from others nearby. If there isn’t a separate office available, train employees to write information down or point to segments of the contract rather than stating phone numbers, social security numbers and other personal information out loud.

Creating an atmosphere of community for your property often improves renter satisfaction. Long-term relationships depend on integrity, honesty and trust. Don’t breach that trust. Discourage employees from engaging in gossip or inappropriate conversations about other tenant’s financial matters, relationships or employment issues without express permission. Never release phone numbers or unit numbers to other tenants. You can decide when your staff should offer to contact the tenant for permission to share  information or state the privacy policy prevents sharing.

Protecting tenants’ personal information and privacy aren’t new concerns for property managers, but how you respond to emerging trends and technology defines your property and your brand.