Thursday, January 4, 2018

How to Remain Competitive During a Multifamily Boom

Housing construction
The recent tax reform bill will bring changes to many Americans' taxes, but certain provisions of the bill could be a boon for real estate investors, landlords and the multifamily industry in general.

The bill will reportedly make it more profitable to own income-generating property, such as apartments and condominiums. Experts say this could result in an increase in multifamily construction, meaning there will be more properties competing for your tenants very soon.

As the competition heats up, it won't be enough to simply offer competitive rates and nice amenities to your prospective tenants. You need to have a smooth and easy leasing process, a staff that you trust to take care of your tenants' property, and a way to protect yourself from liability in the event that keys are stolen or go missing.

Here are some ways that hitting those key performance points will give your tenants an excellent, secure living experience and help you compete against newer properties.

Improving the Leasing Process


Nobody likes to wait. Everybody has been frustrated when they get put on hold by a customer service representative. How would it make you feel if you were forced to wait while a leasing agent struggled to find a key for a model unit or an empty apartment? Prospective tenants who are left waiting around the leasing office are already developing a negative opinion of your property before they even see the units.

Does a maintenance technician have the key you're looking for? Has it been misplaced or stolen (more on that in a bit)? A lack of awareness of where your keys are isn't just a security issue. It can leave your leasing agents unable to perform their jobs and send prospective tenants elsewhere. You need a system for keeping track of your keys to be sure one isn't missing when you need it. Either maintain a written access log, which has its own problems, or use an electronic key control system that logs activity automatically.

Holding Employees Accountable


Protecting your property against break-ins and robbery is hard enough without employees abusing their access privileges. How much do you trust your employees to not steal from your tenants? Many properties have struggled with this liability. Some tenants have even taken the matter into their own hands to prove that employees were accessing their apartments without proper notification and stealing money.

Just as knowing who has keys and when can help you improve the leasing process, it can help you hold employees accountable. If a tenant complains about stolen items or access, can you answer them honestly and correctly? A system that automatically tracks key access will let your employees know that you take key security seriously. This will make them think twice before doing something foolish.

Reducing Your Liability


While making sure your employees aren't misusing keys is important, making sure keys don't fall into the wrong hands outside your company is a much bigger issue. It's not just about giving your tenants a place to live that they feel is safe and well secured. Your company could be held liable if a key is stolen and used to access an apartment, especially if it leads to a robbery or a violent crime. It's your responsibility to ensure access to your apartments is properly managed.

Keeping keys secure in an electronic system that notifies you when a key is missing can help you react quickly to a potential issue. Knowing a key is lost can let you change locks before a key is misused. Reduced liability and insurance costs can then be reinvested in the property, helping you remain an attractive property in a competitive market.

How do you plan to keep tenants coming to your property during the coming boom?

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Are Your RV Dealership's Keys Reasonably Secured Against Misuse?

New RVs at a dealershipA 10-ton motorhome piloted by an inexperienced RV driver can be plenty dangerous on the highways. Now imagine that motorhome is being driven by somebody who stole it right off your RV dealership's lot. The damage and injuries caused by the thief are going to make for some ugly news headlines.

Who is going to be held responsible for this wild joyride when the dust settles? The thief will certainly get a fair share of the blame. But if you didn't take reasonable measures to secure your keys, headlines that damage your dealership's reputation won't be your only problem.

Protecting your inventory — from camper trailers all the way up to Ferrari-priced Class A motorhomes — is probably already a priority at your dealership. That's why you likely have fences, padlocked gates and maybe even a lockbox for keys. But even those security measures can fall short against determined thieves.

Fences and padlocks didn't stop thieves from driving three RVs worth almost $2 million off a dealership lot late one night in Colorado. Dealership management told a local news station that the thieves had to have had a plan in place. Even if your keys are secure, do you know who has access to them and when they're taken?

Thieves in Arizona got a little bit luckier when they took two motorhomes that had been on display at a local mall. They keys to the RVs were left locked inside by dealership employees. Even basic security practices won't be enough if you make it easy for a thief to access keys and make a clean getaway.

The situation can careen even more out of control if the fleeing criminal is involved in accidents while driving the stolen motorhome. No bystanders were hurt during a high-speed police chase with a stolen RV in California, but the dealer could still have faced civil liability for damage, injuries or death caused by the thief in the stolen RV.

If a motorhome stolen from your dealership is involved in an accident or causes damages, the loss of the asset, insurance deductibles and increased premiums won't be your only concerns. What steps have you taken to make sure your keys don't fall into the wrong hands?

Monday, December 4, 2017

Is Poor Key Security Scaring off Tenants?

Agent giving keys to tenant
Having a list of amazing amenities and well-maintained units is great for attracting new tenants to your multifamily property, but what they see on the surface might not be enough to get them to renew once they've experienced how your property is managed.

If you're not doing enough to keep your tenants and their property safe or to provide them with good, efficient service, they could be looking for somewhere else to live when their lease is over.

Here are a couple tips for making your property a place tenants want to stay.

Keep Tenants and Their Keys Safe


How you treat keys to your units plays a big role in providing both security and good service. If your key security is falling short, you're leaving your tenants vulnerable to potential thefts and violent crimes. Employees misusing keys can also be a problem. For example, a Seattle woman recently caught a property's assistant manager stealing cash from her apartment.

Your property needs a secure and efficient way to manage your keys. Whatever method you choose to keep your keys safe, be sure you have a way of tracking who has keys and when. Handwritten logs are one way to track keys, but an electronic system that automatically records that information based on login credentials would give you a more accurate and easy-to-manage audit trail.

Reduce Your Liability


Poorly maintained or nonexistent key security and access logs can leave you open to lawsuits. It can also send a message to your tenants that you don't care about their safety — or your own liability. In the event that an access incident does happen, such as an employee who used a key without a proper reason or authorization, you need to be able to respond.

By tracking every key and all access to your property, you can answer any concerns about access that a tenant might have and reduce your liability. With a key control system that automatically logs access, you'll have a verifiable audit trail to determine if an employee had the key at the time in question. Having access to this information will also help hold your employees accountable for what they do with keys when they have them.

Manage Packages Better


The winter holidays are here, and your office is probably already inundated with boxes and boxes of online orders piling up in a back room (or worse, in the middle of your leasing office). Your staff already has their normal daily duties, but now they have to keep track of who's been notified about their packages, if a package has been retrieved and who needs to be notified again — all on top of making sure packages don't go to the wrong people or get lost.

Consider using a system that easily tracks packages as soon as your office receives them. You should be able to quickly create a record of the package, scan its information and have the system automatically notify tenants via email or text message. Then the tenants must sign for the package, ensuring the packages go to the right people. this will keep you from having a pile of boxes disrupting your regular office functions during the holiday season.

Managing properties, especially multifamily communities, requires juggling a lot of different components. How do you keep your property running smoothly and your tenants happy?

Monday, November 27, 2017

Combine Cybersecurity With These Four Physical Security Tips

Office worker searching confidential information
Earlier this year, the ransomware virus Wanna Cry encrypted more than 200,000 computers across the world. The Equifax data breach put 145.5 million Americans’ personal information at risk because an employee failed to apply a security patch. With high-profile incidents such as these, it’s easy to see why cybersecurity spends so much time in the headlines. While cybersecurity is important to protect your organization against a data breach, make sure you don’t overlook physical security — specifically key control. Follow these four tips to increase physical protection for your data.

Secure Keys to Areas Where Sensitive Data Is Stored


The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends combining cybersecurity best practices with physical security guidelines, which are essential to protect against insider threats and social engineering. According to the FTC, you should store devices and documents containing personally identifiable information (PII) in a locked file cabinet or room, and use access controls for on-site data centers.

If you keep keys in a desk drawer or on a pegboard, however, that’s not enough to deter someone from gaining unauthorized access to files or devices. Storing keys in a tamper-proof electronic key control system rather than in an easily accessible area reduces your risk of a security breach.

Set up Access Levels


The FTC says to limit cabinet or room key access to employees with a legitimate business need. Employees should return keys as soon as they’re done with them.

Storing keys in an electronic key control system allows you to enforce these guidelines by setting up user profiles for various job functions and access privileges. If someone needs a key, they can only access the system if they’re authorized to do so.

Automate the Audit Trail


To improve employee accountability, it’s best to minimize the level of human involvement in your key control procedures. For example, say that your HR manager is in charge of issuing keys to locked filing cabinets containing confidential employee records. The manager maintains a spreadsheet of who has been issued keys and when, but there are a few problems with this method:

  • Someone has to remember to update the log.
  • It’s easy to manipulate data.
  • If a single person is managing multiple keys, they have to manually review the spreadsheet to determine if all keys have been returned on time.
  • It relies on a person’s trustworthiness and sound judgment. Someone could issue a key to an unauthorized user or use the key themselves for unauthorized purposes.

The benefit of using an electronic key control system is that it will automatically record data for each system transaction. If a key isn’t returned on time, the system will automatically send a text or email alert to the system administrator or sound an alarm. Additionally, the automatic audit trail gives you a reliable source for investigating the incident, and the accuracy of the data is less likely to be called in to question.

Be Cautious When Giving Vendors Keys


If it’s necessary to check out keys to a contractor or vendor, inspect their driver’s license to verify their identity. After checking out the key(s), print a copy of the key receipt and have each party sign. Ensure that the key grants the vendor access only to the areas they need to perform their job. You can also put a time limit on the transaction so you’ll be notified if the vendor has key for longer than they should.

Protecting your data requires a strong focus on cybersecurity, but you can’t afford to neglect security. For more tips, check our post “The Four Layers of Physical Security.”

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

How Key Control Reduces Employee Risk in Prisons

Correctional officer holding keys
With prisons struggling with overcrowding, it may seem reasonable to hire more correctional officers to help maintain the security of your facility. However, due to the stressful and demanding nature of the position, hiring new officers may not solve your security problems. In fact, as a result of understaffing, new employees are less likely to be vetted and trained properly, which can result in human error, unsafe work conditions and even corrupt behavior.

Correctional officers are responsible for controlling facility keys, equipment and weapons, making it crucial that they be held accountable. If these items are lost, misplaced or stolen due to a negligent or stressed-out worker, it could be disastrous for your facility. Consider the case of an Australian prison that saw a prisoner steal a set of unattended keys from a staff area as he was being released. The keys were not discovered missing until the next day and required 28 locks to be changed.

One way to help reduce employee risk in your prison is by investing in a secure method for managing your keys. An electronic key control system can create an automatic record of keys checked out by employees, in addition to alerting an administrator by text message or email when keys are not returned. This promotes accountability among your employees while also keeping you informed of the status of your prison’s keys.

As prisons require a higher level of security than most organizations, limiting key access to approved users should be a priority. A key control system that provides total lockdown security can lock keys in place to prevent users from taking keys they shouldn’t. Limiting access to keys can also help cut down on employees handling more keys than necessary, which in turn can help prevent lost or stolen keys.

Are you confident your prison keys aren't being misused?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Avoid a Campus Nightmare by Taking the Right Safety Measures

Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania
Photo from The Clio
Three weeks ago at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania, former student Cody Delusio used a master key to enter a sorority house, impersonating the sorority's new resident director. The students in the house immediately had suspicions of his intentions and called the campus police. As the officers were on their way, one of the sorority members added Delusio on the social media app Snapchat, which has a new feature that displays your friends' locations. Later in the evening, the police were able to track down the trespasser's location.

Fortunately, Snapchat saved the school's reputation and saved the girls from danger. But what if none of the students had thought to befriend the intruder to track his whereabouts? What if he had other sorority houses' master keys? The story could have ended very differently.

When keys end up in the wrong hands, you jeopardize not only your campus safety but also the reputation and brand image you hold. To uphold the safety and reputation of your campus, you must ensure you've taken reasonable steps to secure your campus. One way to do this is to implement an electronic key control system.

With an electronic key control system, you can:
  • Increase student and resident safety
  • Reduce liability
  • Avoid rekeying costs
  • Prevent a negative reputational image
Want to learn more about how to secure your campus? Check out this blog post.

Monday, October 2, 2017

How Electronic Key Control Helps Combat Dealerships’ Top Challenges

Car keys with money
It’s tough finding the budget to prioritize all your dealership’s challenges, from employee retention to customer satisfaction to compliance. However, even if you do invest money in one of these areas, there is a common denominator that could be worsening each of these challenges and putting your investments on the line. That denominator is key control.

Consider the role key control plays in the following three areas.

Employee Retention


For many employees — especially salespeople and service advisors — time is money. Anything that extends the sales process longer impacts their earning potential. Unfortunately, only 49 percent of business owners are taking advantage of business process automation. Dealership employees are often required to perform manual tasks such as filling out key control logs. To save time, employees tend to take a key without completing the log. If anyone else needs that key, they have to spend time searching for it.

When your employees have to cope with longer processes, they have to deal with more frustrated customers, which can increase the employee’s stress level. These factors alone are enough to cause them to look for another job. A 10-point increase in turnover will cost you around $50,000 annually.   

Electronic key control systems offer features that allow employees to do their jobs more efficiently, including CRM integration, electronic key log updates and work order tracking. These capabilities increase employees’ earning potential and reduce frustration, making them want to stick around longer.

Customer Satisfaction


When you’re constantly onboarding new associates, it’s difficult to prioritize customers. Turnover not only creates a lack of continuity for customers, it also creates a breakdown in processes. New associates are more prone to mistakes like misplacing keys or failing to update a key control log. These errors force other staff members to take longer serving customers, which makes a negative impression on the consumer — especially in the sales department. When customers are buying cars, satisfaction is at its highest within the first 90 minutes on the day of purchase. That number begins declining once time spent goes beyond the 1.5 hour mark. Every minute counts.

Incidentally, after you’ve implemented tools to make employees happier (like CRM integration, automatic key logging, work order tracking and more), they’ll be more motivated to meet customers’ needs. Your customers will also appreciate not having to wait while sales reps and service advisors track down keys.

Compliance


Retaining employees and keeping customers happy is even more complicated when you throw compliance challenges into the mix. Improper key control methods and inadequate audit trails have significant compliance implications. For example, the FTC Commission’s Safeguards Rule requires you to store records containing sensitive customer information in a place where they can be locked when unattended. File cabinets, desk drawers and offices are also required to be locked securely.

Seventy-one percent of breaches at small to midsize businesses are caused by employees or on-site security weaknesses. That’s why it’s important to know who has access to areas with confidential information. If you do experience a data breach, it will cost you an average of $141 per record. On top of that, 84 percent of buyers won’t return to your dealership.

When the audit trail is consistently updated every time a key is removed or returned, you can rest assured that keys are not being misused, which helps protect your inventory and the areas where restricted information is stored. A system with security alarms helps prevent unauthorized or undetected key usage. If an alarm is triggered, you can act quickly and reduce your chances of a costly physical security breach.

These challenges don’t have to define your dealership. Fight them head on by addressing your key control first.