When it comes to resident communications, urgent messages need to be delivered quickly to the correct recipients. Text messages are an ideal way to target a specific audience with important information because most people have their phone handy all of the time, so you can be sure the messages will be read. Text messages cannot get blown away in the wind, lost in the mail, or sent to voicemail, making them more efficient than traditional flyers, mailings, and phone calls.
Though text messages (also known as SMS) have many benefits, there is one drawback—residents must opt-in to receive them in order for you to comply with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Failure to adhere to the act can result in very costly lawsuits and fines, so let’s talk about how you can legally contact your residents with text messages.
The TCPA, which once pertained only to phones, now protects customers from unwanted text communications from any vendor. This means that all businesses and services must receive prior express written consent before sending consumers text messages. You may be tempted to require residents to sign up for texts while they are signing their lease with you, but having such a condition for living in your community is illegal.
What you can do instead is include an optional clause within your lease asking the residents if they would like to receive important messages via SMS, with clear response options indicating “yes” or “no.” This will allow residents who want alerts to sign up immediately, while those who are disinterested will be protected from unwanted communications.
Another way to get consent is to send a traditional signup form through the resident’s mailbox or under the door. You can also go digital and make it easy to sign up for texts on your website or social media page. Whatever method you use, you must have a clear call to action (CTA) that fully explains your SMS notification service and what it offers your residents.
In order for your call to action to be compliant with TCPA regulations, all subscribers must be fully informed about all aspects of your SMS campaign before they enroll. Information you must provide includes the following:
According to the Mobile Marketing Association’s guide U.S. Best Practices for Messaging, a best practice of any text message marketing campaign is to give direct information about what you offer and to avoid misleading statements in any way. Participants should express 100% willingness to participate in the messages and, ideally, they would confirm ownership of the phone that is to receive the text messages. The opt-in should be used as consent only for that particular campaign and not extend to other programs or services.
What about when a resident doesn’t want to receive your text messages anymore? The TCPA also requires every text message campaign to offer a clear and easy way to opt out of your notifications.
In fact, right after the resident opts in, they should receive a confirmation text that asks them if they really wanted to receive the campaign and, if not, they should be given easy opt-out instructions within the confirmation text.
Sending mass SMS messages from your phone can be a pain, especially when compliance is always in question. In addition, the fines and lawsuits that come with missing a detail can cost you time and money. Why do it all yourself when for a small investment you can be in full compliance without any guesswork?
In order to be organized and confident in sending out text alerts, try using an automated property management text and emailing service. This kind of provider will cover your bases legally by providing you with pre-made templates for compliant CTAs, organize your contact lists with only those individuals who have provided consent, provide clear opt-out instructions, and include privacy law disclaimers. With automation on your side, you can rest assured that everything you send out is to the benefit of both your residents and your business.