Remember the summer of 2020? When the pandemic was at its peak (or so we thought) and we were desperate for face-to-face quality time with our loved ones? Although social distancing was encouraged, our communities noticed an increase in apartment guest parking. In fact, unauthorized guest parking has been on the rise since the pandemic began.
Maybe a couple decided to move in together, or a university-aged student crashed with mom and dad. Perhaps a renter was subletting or allowing a friend to sleep on their couch. Let’s not forget the possibility that people may have been illegally crashing in empty apartments.
While discussing parking problems, Strong Towns reminds us of the basic fact that parking is complicated. And according to the National Apartment Association, decreasing ratios mean fewer spaces available for residents, more unauthorized guests within our apartment communities, plus additional parking management for staff.
All of these evolving trends have produced both positive and negative byproducts:
- Security. You don’t know who is in your community, and where they are staying.
- Crime. A greater number of unauthorized guests on your property is related to an increase in crime.
- Revenue. Unauthorized guests may be a source of lost revenue.
- Abuse. A lack of a solid parking policy encourages further parking abuse.
But here’s the reality: managing your apartment parking is inconvenient and time consuming for your onsite staff team. If you’re ready to track your parking offenders and prevent future unregistered guests, it’s time to revamp your apartment parking system.
We’ve outlined five action steps to help you improve the parking in your apartment community.
1. Get organized
The best way to improve your apartment parking is to take an inventory or audit of your current parking situation.
First, how many parking spaces does your community have? What is the ratio of parking spaces to homes? Once you identify those specs, you’ll have a grasp of how many cars should actually be in your parking lots and garages.
Next, consider unavailable spaces. Does maintenance use parking spots for storage or new supplies? Can those poorly used spaces be converted back into a rentable spot by moving the maintenance items to a different location?
2. Create guest parking zones
It’s common knowledge for visitors to seek out guest parking spots. So one of the greatest parking improvements is to make it simple and easy for non-residents to follow your parking policies.
- Clearly label guest parking spots, time limits, and guest parking rules on signage.
- Don’t forget to specify how visitors can receive guest parking permits.
- Want to make it extra convenient for your visitors, especially during the holidays? Switch from paper permits to online passes by adding QR codes or website links to your guest parking signs.
3. Use decals/permits to identify resident vehicles
It’s tough to distinguish between a resident’s vehicle and a guest’s car if your parking system doesn’t include parking permits.
First, establish a color code for open parking, garage spaces, and carport spots. Consider including premium or amenity parking spaces as well. Don’t forget to inform residents about your community parking upgrades and how it impacts them.
Next, purchase resident parking passes. But keep in mind these best practices:
- Don't purchase your resident parking passes from bulk suppliers. Because if it’s easy for you to buy generic passes, it’s easy for your residents to order duplicates too. (This includes old-fashioned hang tags.) And that means they can cheat your system and abuse your parking policies.
- Use smart decals. Technology is everywhere, and our multifamily communities need to catch up. Smart parking decals, which cannot be duplicated like paper tags, are registered to residents and easily tracked through a management software program. Plus, residents can’t remove a non-transferable sticker from their vehicle to “share” with another car, unlike most apartment parking permits.
4. Include paid parking opportunities for greater revenue
Did you know that you can earn additional revenue from parking? Don’t miss out on these money-making parking solutions:
- Paid guest parking. Allow visitors a free allotment of guest parking time, but then charge for additional hours. For example, after 72 hours of free parking per month, guests are required to pay a fee for each additional hour or selected time thereafter. Mixed-used or urban communities with retail parking spaces may also offer 2 hours of complimentary parking before charging an hourly rate.
- Premium resident spaces. When residents get to park in the best spot near the building entrance, they strut through the doors like Superman after he just saved the world. That’s because those are the best, most sought after, most convenient parking spaces. If residents already try to park closest to the doors or elevators, consider charging a premium price for those spots.
- Rentable open resident spaces. Did you know that convenient parking is a hot commodity — even for non-residents? The spare parking spots in your community are prime real estate for individuals who work nearby. Both parties benefit: they can rent a space for the day and your apartment community gains extra revenue.
5. Parking enforcement
One of the main reasons that unauthorized occupants are parking in your community is a lack of apartment parking enforcement. But this responsibility doesn’t have to fall solely on your onsite staff. With digital multifamily parking solutions, you can easily administer parking decals and implement an effective parking plan.
- Know your residents. Once your residents have a smart parking decal, you can easily identify which vehicles belong to residents and which are not registered. You can also track unregistered vehicles in a smart parking program.
- Hire a reputable tow company. An industry best practice is to offer at least one documented warning before towing. But after the second or third offense, it’s time to take action. Find a local tow company that is licensed and insured, experienced in multifamily parking enforcement, and can guarantee a reasonable response time. Utilizing license plate recognition software or sensor technology helps your courtesy patrol officers be more efficient at monitoring unauthorized vehicles and communicating with a tow company.
- Create enforcement zones. Parking enforcement should be randomized so residents are less likely to abuse the system. First, divide your community parking into a handful of zones and then create a rotating schedule for when your enforcement team patrols each area. This system can pinpoint problem areas, reveal which zones have the most undocumented vehicles, and help your enforcement team more efficiently cover a larger area.
- Note stationary vehicles. Have you noticed a vehicle that hasn’t moved in a few days? Establish a rule that vehicles are required to change parking spaces every 24/48/72 hours, and create a plan for how to inspect inoperable cars.
- Check for expired decals. Apartment parking permits are a huge asset to your community — as long as they are valid! Make sure your apartment parking enforcement team builds in time to check for expired tabs.
Your apartment parking solution
Parking is complicated, and so is a pandemic. But that doesn’t mean our apartment communities need to endure parking abuse. Revamp your apartment parking system with these five key steps and you’ll be rewarded with an accountable community, revenue from guest parking, and more satisfied residents!