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Dress Codes Remain Important in the Apartment Industry

Dress Codes Remain Important in the Apartment Industry

It seems almost impossible to imagine now, but there was a time when people dressed up to fly. During the 1950s and 60s, men donned suites and women wore dresses while traveling on airplanes.

I bring this up not to grumble about the sweat pants and flip-flops you often see on today's airline passengers, but to point out how much more casual Americans are today about their attire. The work outfits that were once reserved for casual Fridays are now seen every day in some office environments.

In such an era, property managers might be wondering if having a dress code for their onsite leasing teams is really important. In my view, the answer is, resoundingly, "yes."

Dress codes remain essential to creating a professional environment. When team members dress in a professional manner, they are more likely to behave in a professional manner, and they are more likely to command the respect of prospects and visitors.

At ROSS, we have a fairly strict and detailed dress code. For starters, no visible body piercings, except for earrings, and no visible body tattoos are allowed.

In the leasing office, women are to wear navy blue, black or gray business suits or pantsuits; skirts must be of a conservative business length (not more than 2 inches above the knee). Men have to wear navy blue, black or gray business suits with buttoned dress shirts.

This may seem old-fashioned to some, but our employees really respond to our dress code and recognize how important it is to present themselves professionally to our customers.

Whatever the exact details of your dress code, here a couple of things to keep in mind.

  • Consider helping your employees pay for their work attire. Professional business clothes can be expensive, and helping your team members cover the cost of their required clothing can go a long way towards them embracing the rules.

    At ROSS, we give our leasing staff members $500 every September for them to purchase professional business attire for work. Each September, they are also able to borrow another $500, a portion of which they then repay with each paycheck.
  • Enforce the rules. A dress code doesn't mean much if team members feel it's easy to ignore, and we have serious consequences in place at ROSS.

    On an employee's first violation, the team member receives a written warning and is sent home to change and report back to work in the appropriate attire. A second violation results in a one-day suspension without pay, while a third violation will result in the employee's termination.

When it comes to the specifics of its dress code, an apartment company will need to determine what works best for the image it's trying to project and the office environment it's trying to create. But some type of dress code is essential for appearing professional to prospects and residents, and for maintaining employee discipline. 

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  • Anne Sadovsky

    As speakers, we see big attire differences regionally. The week before last I was in Reno and Vegas and the attire was fairly casual. Last week in Washington DC the men were wearing neckties, dress shirts, and slacks. The females were wearing dresses or slacks, and attractive blouses/tops. Season and weather may dictate attire. In Dallas, where it will be over 100 degrees all week, some companies allow knee-length shorts, navy, black or khaki with company provided colored polo type shirts. Clean white socks and sneakers finish the look. However, most companies prefer a 'Dallas casual' professional look.
    I agree that when we dress better, we act better. Totally agree about piercings and tattoos, especially on neck, face, hands.
    Realistically, the suit and tie era is pretty much over. Even at my age, it looks a little stuffy unless you work in a VERY expensive, in the city, community. I salute you for the effort, agree about dress codes, however, I don't think it will fly with most of us!

  • I love that you provide a clothing allowance for your people! And I do think that clarity and coaching on the dress code is essential; and also on how to look good. Two people can be wearing the same suit and one person makes it look like a tailor made suit and the other like it was picked up from the floor at TJ Maxx!
    I'm interested, do you get any pushback on the dress code? Prior to starting my speaking company (Hi Anne, BTW!!) I worked for companies with a similar dress code and that provided us an allotment for clothing and it seemed like there was constant complaining about every aspect of the dress code! I loved getting free suits, but some of my co-workers were not as impressed. (=
    Today I love wearing suits, and I yet I am surprised at how people perceive me as a speaker when I wear a blazer and dark jeans combo...I always get compliments when I wear blazer/jeans. I think this is a sign that things continue to evolve.

  • I used to preach that it made no difference in my leasing numbers whether I was dressed up in a skirt or dressed for soccer games (I coached) on any Saturday I was in the Office. People responded and leased mainly because of the personal connection I could create between us. I still think this - but I realize, too, that so many people have no idea how to dress for work in a Leasing Office. And money should have nothing to do with it, other than the more money one has to spend on clothing, the better the clothing will likely fit, and the look and quality of the fabric will be better. Over the years, I support having some type of dress code: more than being naked, less than formal attire. What seems hypocritical to me is that free uniforms are provided for our Maintenance Techs and most of the time, companies provide no clothing allowance to the Office teams, yet have some type of policy about what those in the Office should wear. Sticking to a basic color in bottoms is what I suggest to new Leasing Specialists with their choice of top being left to their discretion - as long as bottoms are ankle length, or if a skirt, the skirt should be no higher than 2 inches above the knee and tops not revealing (male/female) and cover the chest. Honestly, I see a lot of twenty-somethings wearing knit crop/exercise pants with barely there tops and THAT is unacceptable. Why they think that is okay I blame on society. However, that rebel in me is screaming that I should NOT have to follow a strict dress code - I am not in Catholic school any more. :-)

  • As a maintenance professional I agree completely with the need for dress code. Recently, in El Paso, I attended a class where the On-Site office staff had specified different uniform each day (except Friday). It was very impressive to see this group of employees filter in each morning. That same ease of identification is paramount for life In the maintenance world. Some thought should go into what our technicians look like through the peep hole after knocking on a door. In addition to appearance, we need to be sure that safety is a consideration as well.

    On my communities a technician was out of uniform if they do not have at least one pair of exam type gloves on them at all times. In addition, I've spoken to companies that had the same rules for the availability for eye and cut protection as well. Maintenance workers should be aware of footwear requirements (non skid, closed toe at all times, high Ohm rating for electrical protection) and that it is adhered to even on evening/weekend emergency call-outs. *** Crocs and flip flops not allowed***

    A few years ago I was at a community that had a mirror right next to the door leading out of the shop. In permanent marker was a large circle. When you stood in front of it you were in the circle and above it were the words: "Peep hole view... How do you look?"

  • Cheryl

    I would have to totally disagree. It is not as much about the money to purchase "business clothes" as it is about the message it sends to residents. I have been managing for over 21 years now and about 18 years ago several tenants during a casual conversation mentioned that they always felt that management was "above them." Of course I ask why and they said some come here with their expensive pants suits, dresses, heels and jewelry and of course NONE of us can afford to dress like that and we just feel that someone who really is here to help and understand us would be more down to earth in their appearance. This is absolutely true! I am not saying staff should wear worn, torn clothing or inappropriate length dresses, skirts or low cut too revealing tops. I am saying that a pair of dark jeans no holes, no tatters, with a nice blouse should be perfectly fine. Not sure about others, but I have many days when I am walking the property, cleaning the office, moving files all I would never do in a skirt or heels. I am a very hands on manager who if time allows will empty trash, do dishes in community room and pick up trash on the property if I see it. This also has a great deal to do with the type of property your managing.

  • Interesting response, Cheryl! What do you think about the idea that dressing professionally means dressing one step above the clientele? A high end Class A property might require a suit, while a Class C might require a polo. Thoughts?

  • I totally agree with that... High end properties typically limit management and office staff to office duties, meetings, etc., and everything else is contracted out in which case dressing a step above would be appropriate.

  • Tammy Williams


    I think you can be casual and still be just as professional as long as you keep it neat and sharp. Today’s prospects aren’t looking for the stiff hard core dressed person to lease from. They want the warm friendly smiling make me feel at home kinda good person to lease from....if you are more relaxed in your dress they seem to be more comfortable with you and open up
    easier I think from my 28+ years of experience in the industry. I’ve watch it charge throughout the years and it seems to be more casual for everyone and I work at a class A luxury community. We have no problem with our demographics and stay full now for the last 7+ years for 360 units. No delinquency either. I don’t think our dress code has shown any effect on it.

  • Glen R. Fotre, CCIM

    Your new Tenants will reflect the image of your on-sites!

  • Vicki Sharp

    It would seem to me that if we are going to hire people to run a multi-million dollar business for us, we could trust them to dress appropriately, and instill in their team members that same business sense. Every body (yes, two words) is different, and as Rommel said (shout out to you, Rommel!), the same outfit can look amazing on one person and look horrible on the next. Plus, I believe different property types and locations play a role as well. I think we need to provide some corporate insights or guidelines as to what is expected, then trust our managers to handle the day to day supervision of proper attire.

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