How to Manage Your Multifamily Tenant’s Data Privacy

Smart apartment technology continues to see high adoption rates within the multifamily industry for various reasons. The first reason is residents want it, and some even expect it. The technology available to residents today adds an extra layer of efficiency and comfort to their homes, and research shows they are willing to pay more for units that are smart apartment technology-equipped. 

The second reason is because multifamily owners and operators can’t ignore the myriad benefits the technology provides for their businesses. Smart apartment technology drastically improves existing outdated processes and workflows while also introducing significant improvements to multifamily organizations’ operations and asset protection. Understanding the benefits that the technology offers to both residents and owners alike, it is no wonder that it has seen an incredible boom within the industry.

As with any new technology, however, there are also concerns. In the case of smart apartment tech, the concerns center primarily around privacy and data security and are certainly legitimate, especially when we see how large companies, like Facebook, have been so careless with our personal data. And unlike Facebook, where we knowingly post our personal photos onto a company’s website, smart home devices are in our houses, collecting data during even our most intimate times. 

To assuage some of these concerns and make sure that your smart apartment strategy is above board, here are some best practices and things to be aware of when implementing smart apartment technology.

First and foremost, owners and operators must understand which data they should have access to, and which data is off-limits. The only data they should be able to access is that which will help them protect the property’s assets. On the other hand, any personal information such as the time of day residents come and go from their unit is data that owners and operators should absolutely not have access to. 

Ultimately, owners need to be aware of issues pertaining to the property’s assets, such as water damage or a leak, and having real-time data to alert them of such issues is a benefit for owners and residents alike. In this way, operators will be able to both protect the asset and the resident’s belongings from potential damage. 

Across hundreds of thousands of smart apartment installs, our team at Smartrent has found the same thing consistently: there is no reason for owners to hold onto data for longer than 30-days, unless they are looking to profit off it. Without a doubt, all of us would be furious if we found out that the data captured by a smart apartment tool was being sold to another company without consent. Unfortunately, this happens more than it should. For this reason, we adhere to the “30-day best practice” rule which says that solution providers should not keep any resident data for longer than 30 days at a time, and that all resident-generated data should be deleted immediately upon move-out. An easy way to ensure this happens is to integrate the technology with your existing property management software. This way, when a resident’s lease ends, the system automatically wipes the data, avoiding any lag time due to manual processes or human error. 

Interestingly, one question that we often get is: “why do you even hold it for 30 days?” Well, simply put, it is because residents enjoy and often request the 30-day lifespan. Residents like the ability to look back and see when their front door was accessed, average temperature settings, etc., and it can help them when scheduling maintenance workers, friends, etc.  

Prior to engaging with a smart apartment solution provider, it is critical for owners and operators to thoroughly review the provider’s privacy policy and ensure that it meets data handling best practices. Too often owners who truly value resident privacy will be caught, unknowingly, with a solution provider that is looking to sell resident data. The fallout from that realization can be costly and unfortunately, despite an owner’s best intentions, they are the ones who ultimately assume the bad reputation for such a decision. 

Owners and operators would be wise to ask about data security policies regarding how their resident’s data will be sent and stored. Learning about the provider’s security practices, how they mitigate risk with sensitive data and where resident data is stored should be an important conversation topic to address prior to commitment. Today’s tech-savvy residents are concerned about data security vulnerabilities and providers should be able to supply documentation of best practices and policies they adhere to.    

Properly implemented smart apartment technology can be a huge benefit for multifamily properties looking to create a modern living experience for their residents. It is critical, however, that owners also take resident’s privacy and data rights into account. The smart apartment environment is one of trust. This trust is the only way to create a mutually beneficial experience, for the property management and for the tenant. If this trust is broken, renters will push back against the idea of having recording devices in their homes and they would have every right to do so.

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