Landlords have access to sensitive information which often has to be kept as a legal requirement. However, the nature of the data kept by property owners has made them a target of cybercriminals.
Collecting personal data from tenants comes with the responsibility of safeguarding them at all costs. Unfortunately, many property owners and landlords don’t know how to protect sensitive information from potential misuse.
Why Should Tenant and Owner Data be Protected?
Privacy is a serious concern. As the landlord, it is your responsibility to ensure that any information provided to you by your tenants is kept secure. In other words, you must ensure that it does not fall into the wrong hands.
Many cybercriminals can obtain sensitive data such as Social Security numbers, credit card information, addresses, and more. All it takes is for them to hack into your computer or company database. When this happens, sensitive information can be used for fraud, identity theft, and phishing scams.
When sensitive data is “leaked”, you will be in hot water. Tenants can sue you for not protecting their data.
What Types of Data Do Landlords Keep?
Those in the business of real estate investing keep different types of important documents such as rent payment records, rent increase notices, and more. Storing these documents not only helps landlords comply with state requirements but also protects the investment in the event of legal disputes. The types of records that property owners maintain may include:
As the name suggests, tenant files refer to all documents related to past and current tenants. Property owners should retain all prospective tenants’ applications including important records retrieved during the tenant screening process. Other documents include eviction paperwork, move-in/out inspection reports, security deposits, pet policy agreements, and many more.
If you hired a property management company, they will be in charge of keeping records related to your property, such as insurance policies, photo documentation on property damage, work orders, invoices, and receipts. As the property owner, you should also have copies of all of these records to protect yourself and your investment.
Expenses related to vendors can be claimed as rental property tax deductions. When you hire plumbers, electricians, pool cleaners, or other independent contractors, you can deduct the costs for labor from your taxes. Be sure to retain important records such as vendor contracts, invoices, receipts, payment records, etc. to protect your investment should any dispute arise.
Financial records such as bank statements, tenant ledgers, bank deposit slips, incoming and outgoing invoices, and more, can help you file your annual tax as accurately as possible. Keep in mind that each state has its requirements for the amount of time that rental business owners must retain financial records.
The files listed above are just some of the important documents that property owners and property managers need to keep. Most of these files deal with sensitive information, which means that knowing how to properly store them is necessary to remain compliant with privacy laws.
How Can You Protect Sensitive Tenant Data?
#1 Use Strong Passwords
You and your staff should use strong passwords to access any type of information. Strong passwords often contain eight characters and have a variety of numbers, symbols, and letters that are capitalized or in lower case. Avoid using passwords that are too obvious or related to your rental business. For instance, it wouldn’t be smart to use a password like landlord123.
Similarly, avoid using the same password across different programs. Unique passwords make it harder for cybercriminals to hack into your systems.
#2 Limit Internet Use on Company Devices
Company devices such as laptops, computers, and tablets should be used for your rental business only. Allowing your staff to access their social media, emails, etc. on work devices may put your sensitive data at risk. If someone on your team accidentally clicks on a malicious email, it won’t be long until your entire computer system will be corrupted.
To be safe, install plugins such as Avast, which can scan websites and links before your employee can click on them. Plugins can help prevent staff from visiting questionable sites.
#3 Install Anti-Virus Software
Cryberthreats continue to become more and more complex. Each day, hackers are developing more sophisticated ways to bypass even the most secure systems. This is why it is important that your team is well-informed regarding malware and other cyberthreats.
An excellent way to keep your data secure is by installing anti-virus software that can detect and eliminate threats. You should also call in the IT experts to help you set up firewalls that restrict all incoming network activity.
#4 Dispose of Documents Properly
Documents that contain personal information, such as full names, addresses, telephone numbers, etc., whether physical or digital, should be disposed of properly. Train your staff to use a shredder before throwing documents in the trash. Shredding documents is an effective way of destroying information, ensuring that it won’t fall into the wrong hands once its leaves your office.
#5 Know When to Release Information
Tenants’ information, such as their applications and other records, should never be shared with anyone. It is crucial that your staff understands that they cannot release information without proper consent from the tenant. The only exeption is when authorities such as police officers require information.
#6 Learn Basic Security Tips
Keep your tenants’ information safe by staying informed on industry-standard practices for security. Aside from installing anti-malware software, you should also encourage your staff to use only password-protected WiFi networks. You should also avoid storing card numbers on your company devices — keeping a manual copy may be tedious, but it is a safer option. Communicate the security tips that you learn of to the entire team.
Cyberthreats are constantly evolving, which is why you need a dedicated team to ensure that your rental business’ data is kept secure 24/7. At Luxury Property Care, we manage rental properties with confidentiality and security in mind. All of the records that we obtain from tenants and owners are kept safe through industry-standard security practices. This allows property investors to have peace of mind, knowing that their data and their tenants’ data will never fall into the wrong hands.
Call us today at (561) – 944 2992 or complete the contact form to talk to an agent.