Questioning Traditional Tips for Safer Leasing

Years ago multifamily operators recognized major safety issues that were inherent to the job of renting and managing apartments.  Veterans of the industry will always remember Randy Joseph Wedding, also known as “The Leasing Agent Rapist” for his arrest in 1988 after admitting to sexually assaulting 13 different leasing professionals in Phoenix and Tuscon.  Recognizing the inherent risks involved with young women working in confined spaces alone with others, management companies worked to establish rules that would help reduce the chances of their employees being hurt while on the job.

We wanted to take a look at the most common ‘tips to safer leasing’ that have been floating around the internet over the years to see which hold water in today’s multifamily workplace.

#1 Have your prospect walk in front of you or stay at the door

This still remains great advice for leasing consultants.  While it may be difficult to stay at the door, this is a basic step which is just good old common sense.

#2 Do not meet unknown customers at your property

Whomever advised this hasn’t working in a leasing office.  Strangers walk in all day and your show them apartments.  That is literally the job description.  #7 provides a basic step to improve on this idea.

#3 Tell someone in the office where you are going with your prospect

This can help, but it requires the leasing agent to be in constant contact updating the office with their location.  Most tours start out with the intent of going to location A and B, but something as simple as too much/too little sunlight in a unit can result in a leasing consultant extending the tour to multiple locations.  In addition, someone looking to sexually assault a leasing consultant will find a way to do so between locations.

#4 Carry a cellphone with 911 on speed dial

This is outdated.  Smartphones do not have speed dial.  In addition, the majority of rape cases have one theme – the victims phone was taken immediately and was broken to end the call.  Cell phones are very unreliable and difficult to access quickly.  In addition, many management companies do not want their employees to carry their smartphones with them due to the constant urge to take a quick peek at Instagram or to send a quick text while the prospect is touring.

#5 Carry a walkie-talkie with you and use a code word if you are in trouble

Great idea on paper.  Bad idea when the maintenance worker, a not a police officer, confronts an individual and gets hurt.  It happens repeatedly in the industry and unfortunately, many would be heroes end up hospitalized or worse.  Maintenance workers, though often strong, are not equipped or trained to deal with a hostile individual.  The idea comes from the right place, but it’s not a true solution.

#6 If you feel unsafe, take someone with you on your tour

We have not encountered a management company that is overstaffed.  This is an ideal situation with limits in real life.

#7 Fill out a guest card

This alone is not a safety tip.  Anyone can scribble a name down.  Most companies do not consider this a modern deterrence method.

#8 Take an ID

Good basic deterrence for someone looking to ask a leasing agent out to prevent them from crossing a line while inside an apartment unit.  What does it do for the prospect going on a tour with bad intentions?  Unless you hire former bouncers and liquor store clerks, your leasing team does not know a real ID from a fake one, so any would-be-criminal can easily walk off the street with a fake ID.

#9 Pay attention to exits

Good advice, but generally an apartment has one exit.  Regardless, it is always great advice for anyone to know where the exit is, so this is still great advice.

#10 Carry pepper spray or mace

This is a legitimate step for those in states where it is legal.  If this applies to you, be sure to do your research, because an alarming number of women end up having pepper spray used on them by their target.  Aim well and shoot fast.

#11 Trust your instincts

This is very true, but very hard in real life due to Fair Housing.  Regardless of who walks in the door, you are running the risk of discrimination by refusing to tour a prospect.  There are creative ways to skirt this, such as “I can’t leave the office unattended, can I schedule a tour with you tomorrow at 1:00?”.  If you can do this, excellent.  Moral of the story, your employees can follow their instincts, but management can’t rely on this as a way to avoid crime.



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