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Tips for helping residents prevent ID theft

The economy is strong and consumer confidence is up, meaning people are spending more than ever before. Unfortunately, all those transactions could put them at a heightened risk of identity theft. Identity theft is on the rise. In 2016, 15.4 million U.S. consumers experienced some form of identity fraud, up from 13.1 million in 2015 and 11.6 million in 2011, according to a Javelin Strategy & Research report. As identify theft rises, apartment operators can help residents mitigate their risk of identity theft. Here are some tips: Host a shredding eventOrganize a shredding party in the leasing office or somewhere onsite to give residents a chance to shred documents containing sensitive personal information for free. Such documents may include packing slips and invoices related to online gift purchases as well as credit card statements, utility bills and ATM receipts. Residents should always shred anything that contains their name, address, phone number, Social Security number or bank account information before they dispose of them. Identity thieves have been known to go “dumpster diving” to get sensitive information out of people’s trash. A shredding party can be a great way to mix and mingle with residents in a relaxed setting while offering them an invaluable service. Provide refreshments, play games and enjoy a bit of camaraderie. Urge residents to shop only on secure websitesRemind residents to make sure that HTTPS — instead of just HTTP — appears in the URL of websites they are visiting. This shows the site is secure. Web browsers also typi......
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A Byrd’s Eye View: The State of IT Security

A Byrd’s Eye View: The State of IT Security
Recently I joined Jon Soldan, Daniel Bowden, and Robert Humphreys (of Property Solutions, the University of Utah, and the Western Governors University, respectively) in an Alumni Speakers Series panel discussion on cyber security threats. Over the past 15 years, in various roles from system administration to Engineering positions, I’ve witnessed exploits ranging from small WordPress SQL injections to full-blown multi-gigabit denial of service attacks from large-scale botnets. Some of those DDOSes were so massive they crippled our systems, even though we were routed through DDOS mitigation. The past 12 months was an active period for security vulnerabilities. Highly-impactful bugs were found in core services and technologies (like SSL): Heartbleed, Poodle, Shellshock (and now FREAK!) Fortunately the principles of a secure system remain largely the same. First, avoid risky behaviors (weak passwords, opening emails/attachments from someone unknown, pissing off Anonymous!, surfing sites known for malware, etc.) Then, follow these IT security best practices: Only grant access to those who need it. (The principle of least privilege) Patch your systems and configure them to standard Stop using MD5/SHA, instead use adaptive hashing via bcrypt based on the Blowfish cipher with random salt (okay, that’s a new one) Lower your risk portfolio, by making your information less useful if compromised (for example, use a 3rd party credit card tokenization service instead of storing credit card numbers yourself) Don’t say embarrassing things in emails or chats (Thanks, Sony!) Centralize logging of all server information Enforce and audit your Information security policies regularly Invest in security awareness and e......
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4 Tips for Minimizing Drop Box Liability

4 Tips for Minimizing Drop Box Liability
Payment drop boxes were once a fixture at every community office across America. Nowadays they are slowly disappearing.  With so many residents choosing to pay their rent online, drop boxes are becoming antiquated. An even bigger factor for their decline? Lately, the risk of leaving a check or money order in an overnight drop box has skyrocketed. Thanks to a surge in drop box thefts over the past few years, many property management companies are choosing to discontinue the practice. Crafty thieves, equipped with coat wires and adhesive, are able to fish thousands of dollars’ worth of rent checks and money orders from overnight drop boxes. These crimes often result in payments being fraudulently cashed, leaving residents and property management companies at a loss. In some instances, the theft leads to a legal battle between the resident and the management company about who is responsible for the missing rent payment. Despite the risks, some management companies continue to offer drop boxes as an option for residents who need to make a payment after business hours. If your management company still utilizes drop boxes, here are some tips to minimize the liability. Increase signage at the drop box Placing a sign at the drop box informing residents that they can pay online is a great way to remind them there are safer, more convenient ways to pay. Your online payments provider may be able to provide you with this type of signage. You may also want to add a sign that indicat......
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Top 10 Apartment Resident Customer Satisfaction Complaints

J Turner Research, a leading marketing research firm exclusively serving the multifamily industry, today announced a ranking of the top 10 apartment resident complaints, as revealed in an analysis of 10,000 customer satisfaction surveys completed over the past two years at communities nationwide. Results from the survey analysis were released last week at the National Apartment Association Education Conference and Exposition in San Diego. According to the analysis, apartment residents are most likely to complain about rental rates more than any other issue. In fact, rent rates were more than twice as likely to be mentioned compared to concerns over pet waste, which perennially rank high in renter dissatisfaction. Additionally, rent prices were almost three times more likely to be highlighted by disgruntled residents than noise, which did not even crack the top 10:             Top 10 Multifamily Apartment Resident Complaints: 1)    Rental rates 2)    Poor grounds / common area upkeep 3)    Disorganized staff / lack of communication with staff 4)    Quality of response to maintenance requests 5)    Overall customer service of management staff 6)    Quality of parking / parking availability 7)    Concerns over security / safety / lighting 8)    Lack of upgraded amenities 9)    Pets not on leash / poor pet waste removal 10) General lack of preventative maintenance Renter complaints regarding rates could signify a broader softening in rent fundamentals, which have enjoyed a relatively steady rebound since the beginning of U.S. economic recovery from the Great Recession. Following rental rates, residents are also most likely to be concerned with......
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United We Stand, Separate Interests We Sue?

HOABy Colin McCarthy, J.D., Robinson & Wood, San Jose, CA Continuing my theme of misquoted quotes and special rules for HOAs, let's talk about the individual unit owners. The HOA can be sued for issues in the common areas that lead to injuries or damage. What about the person who owns the unit near the common area? Doesn't he also -- as a tenant in common of the condominium project -- own an interest in that common area? Can he be sued as well? Ordinary principals of duty would suggest he could be. Take the prior case example about the unit owner that installs lights as an additional security measure to ward off crime she knows is happening near her unit. What if she knew about that burgeoning crime and did not take action? One factor mitigates attaching liability and it is the one that got the HOA in trouble in that case. We know it, right people? Control. In most cases, the owner of the "separate interest" -- i.e., the adjoining unit -- is not allowed to put anything in the common area. This is true even though the unit owner technically owns a piece of the common area by virtue of her ownership of the individual unit. This unit owner tried to effect a security measure in the common area and was rebuked by the HOA and one of its members. So it seems likely on that basis for the unit owner not to be sued. (There it was, the ......
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Keeping Lease Renewals High in 2013

Leasing Center SignBy Steve Boudreault, Buildium, Boston, MA Well here we are in a brand-new year, and if you're a property manager, you've no doubt drawn up your plan for keeping your residents and keeping them happy in 2013. Many property managers follow a fairly standard playbook when it comes to resident perks -- Super Bowl parties, free coffee in the mornings, discounts on multi-year leases, and so forth. But here's something to consider: SatisFacts, the apartment industry's authority on resident satisfaction and retention, discovered that the top three factors that influence a renewal decision are quality of maintenance service, safety and security, and quality of customer service provided by office staff. But what about the free peppermint candy in the leasing office? Nope. Not gonna cut it. So how can you use these three factors to your advantage? Let's take a look. The quality of maintenance service is a no-brainer. It can be a challenge for larger properties, but maintenance staff showing up quickly with the most likely tools they'll need for the issue can go a long way. And though many properties have switched to an online maintenance request system, most service requests still come via phone or in-person leasing office visit, so having staff on hand who are familiar with the most common issues and how to resolve them can be a real feather in your cap. Never having to worry about the malfunctioning garbage disposal? Who wouldn't want to renew? It's no surprise that safety and security are a......
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Resident Safety: A common-sense approach

Security is a tough nut. Everyone wants it, yet no one can guarantee it. Most lease agreements make that clear. But as you well know, resident safety is not completely out of your realm of responsibility. So let’s take a common-sense look at some of the legal, ethical and business aspects. Legal If bad things happen on your property, your security efforts may come under close scrutiny. You may even have to testify in legal proceedings. Diminish the risks on all fronts with a proactive security plan. Make it part of your everyday practices. Consider these ideas:   Notify residents when criminal activity happens in your area. Encourage residents to report suspicious activity. Get to know your local law enforcement officers; ask for their help. If they have safety-tip pamphlets, keep them on hand for your residents. Get in the loop with neighborhood watch initiatives. Regularly examine your locks, lights, gates, fences, walkways, parking and trash collection areas. Document all your efforts with dates, times and activities. Make sure you’re prepared to show that you have an active plan aimed at resident safety.   Ethical Residents want to be kept informed. If they know there’s a threat, they’ll take measures to stay safe. Put yourself in their place. If you knew about criminal activity in your own neighborhood, would that affect your behavior? Your residents deserve the same consideration. Business Simply put, resident safety is good for the bottom line. People want to live in a safe community. The perception of safety ......
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Property Management and Crime

By Carla Toebe, New Century Realty, Kennewick, WA One of your responsibilities as a property manager is to maintain a safe, secure, crime-free property. Unfortunately, there are a number of scenarios within property management that a criminal – or even just an opportunist – could exploit. The list below outlines some situations to avoid and some precautions to employ. Never accept cash. Never, under any circumstances, accept cash as payment of rent. By never accepting cash, you will prevent possible thefts by employees or outside people who have marked you as a target, and you will also attract fewer criminals who want to deal only in cash so they can launder money or keep their money trail off the records to avoid being tracked. Screen your applicants. Application screening is another very effective way of recognizing criminals, or people living beyond their means. Naturally a criminal record is a red flag and is generally considered a reason for denial. Another red flag is having a number of items in collections that are not being dealt with. This could mean the individual is living beyond their means. You have to consider the possibility that their wages might be garnished to take care of these bills. Would they be able to still pay the rent? Where is the rent money coming from in that case? Be aware when showing units. Showing a rental unit could also be potentially dangerous if you do not take appropriate precautions. When you are showing a place ......
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