April 23, 2015
Property Managers: Is that Email You’re Sending Legal? How to Avoid HUGE Fines
Imagine this: You’ve just secured a deal with a local cleaner and can offer all your residents 20% off any of their spring cleaning needs. You text or email your residents to let them know the great news, and wham-o, you’re hit with a fine for not complying with either CAN-SPAM (in the U.S.) or Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL). And it’s not just for a few hundred dollars; it’s thousands!
As we move away from sticking up notices in hallways or elevators, and toward sending email notifications, text messages and automated phone messages, property managers who are not careful about compliance with anti-spam legislation can be putting their companies at risk.
Here’s a guide to everything property management companies need to know.
CASL vs. CAN-SPAM
CASL came into effect in 2014, with the goal of protecting Canadians while ensuring that businesses can remain competitive globally. It prohibits the sending of commercial electronic messages (CEM),without consent within and to anyone located in Canada.
The American CAN-SPAM Act was introduced in 2003. It also establishes the rules for CEM, including giving US-based recipients the right to have businesses stop emailing them.
How Do They Differ?
CASL applies to all types of commercial electronic messages, including instant messaging and voice messaging, as well as email. It extends to any message sent as the result of an action taken by a contact, including a confirmation or welcome email. CAN-SPAM covers only email, and only those for which the “primary purpose” is commercial; it excludes messages sent as the result of an action taken by a contact.
While CASL requires that consumers opt in to receive messages, CAN-SPAM only requires that people be able to opt out. Both laws require that businesses clearly identify themselves as the sender, and that all messages contain a free “unsubscribe” mechanism.
Why They Matter
CAN-SPAM fines per violation can be as high as $16,000 USD. CASL is even more severe, with fines up to $10 million CAD for corporations and $1 million CAD for individuals. Imprisonment is also a possibility, and business owners are liable if their employees fail to comply.
What Can You Do About It?
Both laws spell out tough penalties for violations. But like any other legislation that requires compliance, if you follow the rules, you’ll be in good stead.
Before sending any messages, make sure you ask for permission. Once you have permission, always be sure that your messages:
- Include a clear subject line that accurately reflects the content (if it promotes any services, make certain that you identify your message as an ad)
- Identify your contact details, including a physical postal address
- Provide a free, simple way for people to opt out of future messages (and be sure to honour opt-out requests promptly)
Solving Communication Complexity
Property management teams understand that communication to the residents is essential. Automated messages give you the ability to enhance the customer experience as well as improve your overall efficiency and bottom line.
However, management companies can send an array of different messages, from text to email, to residents each and every single day, from different “siloed” departments. These include:
- Rent reminders
- Newsletters (Not CASL compliant without opt-in)
- Birthday greetings (Not CASL compliant for example without an opt-in)
- Maintenance reminders and updates
- Elevator shutdown notices
- And, in rare cases, emergency broadcasts
Each message may have its own reach, its own compliance rules and its own opt-in or opt-out information that must be managed properly. Managing this the “old school” way is nearly impossible and puts the management company at risk.
Property Vista can handle this complexity and ensure that all communication is CASL compliant. Better yet, all messages are filed in the residents’ lease file automatically. If you’re looking for an out-of-the-box solution that offers all of this – and more – consider Property Vista’s communication module.
To discover how Property Vista can work with you to ensure compliance on all of your communications, sign up for your free account today.