Leasing Safety – The Ultimate Guide

Below is an article written by NAA in response to the horrible rape of a female leasing agent in Humble, Texas.  After the attack, a discussion took place on LinkedIn, with hundreds of multifamily professionals weighing in about how they approach safety at the workplace, especially as it relates to showing apartments.

There is a lot of good advice here, but also some advice that needs to be addressed.  Our opinions are based on years of field experience with thousands of apartment communities.  Our expertise in single aspect of security is borderline-obsessive.  We are not a typical security company that covers homes, offices, and the occasional apartment community.  Our single focus is on the security of Leasing Agents, Property Managers, and Maintenance Workers.  We work hard to make sure that events like the one out of Humble, Texas never happen again.

While we feel strongly that parts of this advice column need to be addressed, this is in no way a rebuke against those that contributed on LinkedIn, contributed to the original article, or helped in any way.  All discussions in this matter help move the cause forward and our goal is to help raise awareness in the industry.

Here is the original article to reference – You Can’t Be Too Safe.

 

The Great Advice

Don’t let them know you’re alone (#2) – Simple and smart.  Playing a radio in the office, especially on those Saturdays working alone will help create the image that others are working with you.

Maintain a safe distance (#6) – Not walking in front, locking the door jam, and staying out of small closed off rooms like bathrooms are all standard, smart advice that all leasing agents should know.

Pick a safe time and place (#7) – Your owner may not want to move the model, but you can definitely heed the advice about not showing apartments past dusk.  Put up a sign letting folks know about your policy up front as a standard practice and make absolutely no deviations, lest you risk a Fair Housing violation.

Train employees (#8) – We recommend you bring all staff into your office to refresh them on best practices.  If you can, bring in some of your senior managers.  They’ve seen it all and are a free and fantastic resource for your newer staff.  Let them talk about their shared experiences and make each other stronger.

The Not So Great Advice

Require Proper ID (#1) – Requiring photo ID is commonplace in the industry, but examine how you are going about it.  This article points out that there are:

  • Fair Housing concerns (not following the exact same protocol for every tour) and,
  • Customer privacy concerns about storing information.
  • In addition, how are your leasing agents verifying IDs? Without extensive training on state IDs, passports, and military IDs, it’s a tall order for most leasing agents, which negates the point of taking an ID in the first place.

We suggest looking at CheckpointID for a better way of checking ID. Your customer’s information will be secure (it’s used by TSA, the U.S. Government, and almost every major company in the hospitality, gambling, and food & beverage industries).  On top of that, every ID is verified instantly, taking the guesswork out and ensuring you practice the same protocol straight across your portfolio.

Use Code Words (#3) – Code greens are common and there is a place for them, but talk to your Risk department before making this a company policy.  Questions to ask include:

  • Have we trained our maintenance teams in conflict diffusion?
  • Have we trained our maintenance teams in self-defense?
  • Is physical confrontation part of the job description that your employees were hired for?
  • Is this a job requirement for your maintenance team or up to each individual?
  • If it’s not a company requirement and has no policy in place, is it up to each manager to create their own policies?
  • Does your insurance carrier know that your maintenance team’s job description now includes potential conflict resolution?
  • Do your maintenance employees want to add risk to their lives? There is serious risk to be discussed and they have a right to say no.

Consider Protecting Yourself (#4) – As the writer points out, items like mace or pepper spray are a double edge sword that can often be turned against the user.  There is a case to be made for and against pepper spray, just educate yourself and most importantly, train with it.  Common problems that people fail to account for are:

  • Cans can freeze
  • The true firing range/arc isn’t always known by the user
  • Wind or non-stationary targets make accuracy hard
  • Equipment does expire and may not be replaced in a timely manner

Weapons like pepper spray take courage to use, as was pointed out, so just reflect and decide what is best for you as an individual.  If you feel comfortable and your management is okay with it, go for it.

 

High Decibel Alarms (#4b): Advising leasing agents to use high decibel alarms for tours is major concern.  They have major drawbacks and can offer a false sense of security. If a leasing agent activates a noise emitter, who is going to hear it?  Most residents are at work during the day.  If by chance someone did hear it, are you informing all of your residents of what to do when they hear that specific noise? Even if someone heard the noise, there is no guarantee that they will do anything about it.  Just ask yourself – when was the last time you called the police when you heard a car alarm go off?  It’s white noise.  White noise that is coming from deep inside an apartment unit that is inside a partially empty building.  That’s a lot of bad odds and chances are, all the right conditions will not line up to make this a viable solution.

Cellphones (#5) – Smartphones are great, but they only work if you are holding onto them.  This is a major issue and as an industry we need to stop telling leasing agents that carrying their mobile phone will keep them safe.  It will not.  The first thing that any police officer or selfdefense trainer will tell you right away – if someone wants to hurt you, especially a stronger/larger man, they won’t let you have time to open your home screen, dial 911, and communicate effectively with the operator.  Doubt this statement?  Find a male co-worker right now and simulate an attack.  While you try to get help (please don’t really dial 911), see how long it takes for him to take your phone away.  Keep in mind, in real life you would likely suffer physical attacks – punches, kicks, restraint, and choking.  To add to the difficulty, you also need to talk with 911 and convey your location to them.  They can only pinpoint your location within three football fields in any direction, at best. How many units exist within that space at any one of your communities?  A lot.  This is really dangerous and we need to stop telling leasing agents that they will be able to get help using their mobile phone.

Talk on your phone (#5b): As for the second piece of advice, it is not realistic to make a fake/real call to start every tour.  Leasing agents are sales professionals and most management companies would scorn this as bad customer service.  Most companies do not allow leasing agents to access sites like Facebook, they’re not going to allow leasing agents to talk on the phone with a prospect.  Just picture right now the comment section on ApartmentRatings talking about your millennial leasing agent who talked on their phone during a tour.  It’s cringe-worthy.

What was missing?

Self-defense training – End of day, the best thing anyone can know in a dangerous situation is how to defend themselves.  Every trick, tool, and technology can’t replace this knowledge and skill.  With that said, we all acknowledge the dangers out there and it’s a management company’s responsibility to get their staff some basic self-defense training.  Worried about some managers with physical limitations?  Let them opt out.  The training will last a lifetime and if by some chance your employees do need it…even years after they leave your company, they will remember that it was you who took the time and effort to make sure they knew how to take care of themselves.

Thank you for spending time reviewing this topic.  It goes without saying that Apartment Guardian is a major resource for on-site safety, but at the end of the day, we care most about keeping our friends and family in the industry safe.  Call us to talk safety, even if you just want to bounce around thoughts.  We love to talk shop and are here as a resource for everyone.

 

Kindly,

The Apartment Guardian Team

 

 

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