One of the fastest growing trends in affordable property management during the pandemic has been an increased adoption of and reliance on technology. 67 percent of polled affordable housing professionals report shifting to greater digital reliance in 2020. 22 percent of those polled place technology within their top three priorities for 2021.
How Technology Streamlines Affordable Property Management
Affordable property management professionals are using online applications, managing recertifications online and adopting electronic document storage. Having unlimited electronic document storage is key for Management and Occupancy Review (MOR) preparation. With electronic signatures approved by HUD in April 2020, professionals in the industry expect this trend to grow rapidly.
Changes are ongoing for HUD guidelines on electronic file protocols. Guidance on communicating compliance with EIV reporting requirements, including web meetings, is still pending, but Housing Notice 2020-04 is now obsolete and has been replaced entirely by HN 2020-10, which includes these two additions:
– Section II.A – Adds 811 PRA to the applicable Multifamily Housing Programs who may use the instruction in the Notice.
– Section VII.B.5 – Revises the language regarding access to electronic versions of the tenant file to Independent Public Auditors to specifically not allow access to EIV reports. IPAs must comply with the EIV Rules of Behavior which requires that EIV information be reviewed on site or at the management company office.
SMS/text messaging is preferred by many residents of all ages, and affordable property management professionals are adopting this popular communication channel. Phone calls are time-consuming for staff, especially when they go unanswered. Text messaging is convenient for both staff and residents and preserves a written record of conversations and notifications if integrated with your property management software.
Self-serve accounts are a baseline expectation for consumers today. Resident portals allow residents to manage all their communications, property notifications, payments, service requests, document uploading, and package delivery preferences in one convenient location. This gives your staff more time to focus on higher priority tasks.
Certain legislation has driven the adoption of increased and expanded online payment options for residents in some states, which could become more widespread. The most recent trends we’ve seen include:
– Card payments (credit/debit) – New Jersey signed a law in January requiring affordable property management companies to accept credit card payments for rent during the COVID-19 emergency and for one year following the end of the emergency. The legislation states that transaction fees can be passed along to residents, and any amounts reversed by the credit card company due to claims of fraudulent activity would be considered unpaid rent.
– Cash/wire pay (Greendot/Western Union)
– Flex pay (twice a month/weekly)
– Credit bureau reporting – California now requires affordable property management companies to give tenants the option to report rent payments to the credit bureaus. HUD is still considering whether to allow residents to be charged for the service.
Maintenance is a major component of affordable property management. More properties are leveraging the power and convenience of software to manage critical maintenance processes, such as work orders and inspections across multiple locations.
Some affordable housing professionals are stepping up their technology usage with online training (software, internal company training) and internal collaboration on shared documents, budgets, policies and procedures.
What’s Next for Affordable Property Management Technology?
The biggest technology adoption trend to date has been online applications, with online payments currently picking up speed.
The end of the eviction moratoriums will usher in a backlog of cases, clusters of vacancies, and an Increase in vacancy-related activities. So, it will be more important than ever to leverage technology for greater efficiency and revenue generation. Relevant tools to have in place include:
– Mobile maintenance solutions for unit inspections, work orders and make-readies
– Leasing solutions such as electronic waitlists and online applications, which allow you to enact the entire leasing process online from start to finish.
Technology will continue to offer a competitive edge for property managers, enabling more efficient revenue-generating operations and a better experience for prospects and residents.