We all receive a lot of spam. At the same time, most of us do want to receive important information regarding our industry or other sites that are important to our everyday business. If you currently send or are considering an email newsletter for your property management clientele, it is important that your company comply with the CAN-SPAM Act of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You need to request permission to send email newsletters to your contacts – existing owners and tenants as well as prospects. Purchasing “lists” that are available on the Internet can lead you into trouble with the CAN-SPAM Act.
You also want to be sure that there is a good system set up for tracking bounces, spam, opt-outs, etc. to keep your company out of trouble. When spending valuable company funds on email marketing, you want to be sure that your emails are not considered spam!
To start, you need to know the requirements of the CAN-SPAM Act. Then you need to review your email newsletter process to see if you’re in compliance. Compliance guidelines is something you should add to your Policy and Procedures Manual as well. If you do not have a manual, at least have a written policy in your office. Violations have major penalties as outlined below.
Do not let this act discourage you. Remember, the CAN-SPAM Act is like any other legislation that requires compliance, such as lead-based paint, Fair Housing, Red Flags Rule, etc. Follow the rules and you will not have to worry about compliance.
The following excerpt is just part of the FTC Guide CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business:
“Do you use email in your business? The CAN-SPAM Act, a law that sets the rules for commercial email, establishes requirements for commercial messages, gives recipients the right to have you stop emailing them, and spells out tough penalties for violations.
Despite its name, the CAN-SPAM Act doesn’t apply just to bulk email. It covers all commercial messages, which the law defines as “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service,” including email that promotes content on commercial websites. The law makes no exception for business-to-business email. That means all email – for example, a message to former customers announcing a new product line – must comply with the law.
Each separate email in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act is subject to penalties of up to $16,000, so non-compliance can be costly. But following the law isn’t complicated. Here’s a rundown of CAN-SPAM’s main requirements:
- Don’t use false or misleading header information. Your “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” and routing information – including the originating domain name and email address – must be accurate and identify the person or business who initiated the message.
- Don’t use deceptive subject lines. The subject line must accurately reflect the content of the message.
- Identify the message as an ad. The law gives you a lot of leeway in how to do this, but you must disclose clearly and conspicuously that your message is an advertisement.
- Tell recipients where you’re located. Your message must include your valid physical postal address. This can be your current street address, a post office box you’ve registered with the U.S. Postal Service, or a private mailbox you’ve registered with a commercial mail receiving agency established under Postal Service regulations.
- Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you. Your message must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting email from you in the future. Craft the notice in a way that’s easy for an ordinary person to recognize, read, and understand. Creative use of type size, color, and location can improve clarity. Give a return email address or another easy Internet-based way to allow people to communicate their choice to you. You may create a menu to allow a recipient to opt out of certain types of messages, but you must include the option to stop all commercial messages from you. Make sure your spam filter doesn’t block these opt-out requests.
- Honor opt-out requests promptly. Any opt-out mechanism you offer must be able to process opt-out requests for at least 30 days after you send your message. You must honor a recipient’s opt-out request within 10 business days. You can’t charge a fee, require the recipient to give you any personally identifying information beyond an email address, or make the recipient take any step other than sending a reply email or visiting a single page on an Internet website as a condition for honoring an opt-out request. Once people have told you they don’t want to receive more messages from you, you can’t sell or transfer their email addresses, even in the form of a mailing list. The only exception is that you may transfer the addresses to a company you’ve hired to help you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.
- Monitor what others are doing on your behalf. The law makes clear that even if you hire another company to handle your email marketing, you can’t contract away your legal responsibility to comply with the law. Both the company whose product is promoted in the message and the company that actually sends the message may be held legally responsible.”
What can Real Estate/Property Management companies do to assure compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act?
With management agreements and lease agreements, you are most likely in compliance if you are planning to send to owners and tenants. However, it is a good idea to send them an advance notice, letting them know you will be sending an email newsletter but that they can opt out. You can add a clause to your management and lease agreements that authorize you to send them emails. Create an electronic and/or paper file to keep your email authorizations. It can pay off later.
If you want to target real estate agents or other contacts to solicit business, avoid buying lists. There are a lot of offers on the net to sell you “lists” – beware – they probably do not comply with the act. Collect contacts and ask them for permission. The penalties are not worth the risk.
Use a legitimate email program such as Constant Contact or Infusionsoft to send the newsletters. They have requirements for compliance and the tools to track bounces, spam reports, and opt-outs. These programs will discontinue your account if there are violations. It is your responsibility to submit legitimate emails. If you choose this approach, you can purchase newsletter articles from the LandlordSource article library and send email newsletters to your clientele.
If you prefer to have an expert send your newsletter for you, we offer a property management newsletter service that may work well for you. We’ll help you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.
Email newsletters are a good tool for marketing your property management company. Set them up properly and they can bring you more business and improve client relations.
Jean Storms, MPM® is the founder/author of LandlordSource and has been a NARPM® member since January 1993.
Disclaimer: LandlordSource does not represent the article content in this website as legal advice. It is shared information only and up to the reader to use this information responsibly, seeking legal advice as necessary to their business.