The Cell Phone Dilemma

With daily innovations in technology and the growing use of wireless internet access, cell phones have become an indispensable link with your customers.  Have you noticed that the first number prospects typically give you today is their cell phone?

We believe that the most important number on your guest registration cards, your applications and your resident information sheets today should be the cell phone.  The days of asking for the home phone number as the primary link are over.  People will answer their cell phone at work, at a party, at home and in the bathroom.  The reality is that for many of your current residents – especially the Y generation (people born post 1980 and the fastest growing rental segment) – no longer bother with a home phone at all.  Their primary communication link is their cell phone.  The problem is that there seem to be numerous problems with this growing use of cell phones, particularly with their use in our industry.

Many of our entry systems are still linked to land-line telephones to enable visitor entry into buildings.  For those residents without a land-line, this means that they have to physically come down to the lobby to open the door for their visitors.  Obviously this doesn’t sit well with a lot of residents and many have tried to cut keys for frequent visitors, or asked the landlord to provide them with additional keys. This then opens building access to all sorts of people that don’t even live in your building(s) and creates a security nightmare.  Every landlord should be updating their lobby entry systems to make them cell-phone friendly.

Another serious problem is the number of people who are frequently refused an apartment or had their application declined because a credit check indicated that they are in collections with a cell phone provider.  If it’s true that the individual in fact owes the money then I say let the chips fall where they may.  Unfortunately, time and time again we’ve had people run their own credit checks, identify the problem, and bring proof of past payment and then subsequently face the disappointment of an apartment they wanted having been rented to someone else.  At a couple of locations, our agents are now overlooking cell phone collections as an issue on credit checks because they have proven too often to be unreliable.  As a side note, the same held true for highway toll routes in the past, but we’ve recently noticed a marked improvement.

And last but not least, as landlords we are in a position to send all of these cell phone companies more business than any other industry.  It’s hard to be supportive of organizations that over-bill without authorization (personal experience) and won’t even accept responsibility for their actions choosing to offer modest adjustments instead.  With over 250,000 new immigrants arriving in Canada each year, all of whom have cell phones as their primary means of contact as they search for an apartment, you’d think some of these cell phone companies would make an effort to be more cooperative with our industry.  For instance, we note that only a single cell phone provider is currently listed as a member of the GTAA.  The residential rental industry is one of their biggest sources of income and yet they don’t even bother joining with our industry to build a meaningful relationship.  Every day you see a new cell phone company appear in ads on TV, print ads, public transit – they all want our business and our referrals – make them earn it!