“Because our files are in the cloud, we’ve been able to gain back space in the leasing office that was previously reserved for file storage, and we have less risk of identity theft and catastrophic loss due to natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy.”
—HNN Associates Vice President Aaron Stright
As Director of Compliance and Operations Manager for HNN Associates, Aaron Stright knows how important it is to keep paperwork in order. From the company’s inception in 2005, HNN has specialized in Section 42 Tax Credit affordable housing. In fact, of HNN’s 3,000 units, all but 200 are affordable.
With so much of HNN’s business dependent on highly regulated tax credits, maintaining compliance at the company’s affordable communities across the state of Washington is of the utmost importance.
“There’s a lot of risk involved if we don’t comply with the terms of our regulatory agreement,” said Aaron. “There’s a potential for regulators to recapture tax credits.”
Fortunately, HNN uses On‑Site’s rental qualification, forms generation and cloud storage solutions, featuring built-in compliance tools that allow Aaron and his team to automatically archive and manage all of the paperwork that comprises the leasing and compliance process.
But it wasn’t always this easy for Aaron and his team.
The Paper Chase
Affordable housing providers, like HNN, are beholden to both state and federal auditors. Not to mention private auditors working on behalf of investors wishing to maintain the steady stream of tax credits.
To continue receiving those tax credits, Aaron has to supply auditing agencies with resident files proving that renters living in low-income units meet affordable housing eligibility requirements. However, to submit that paperwork, Aaron has to find it first. Much of the paperwork requested by auditors was being stored in row after row of filing cabinets at each individual community.
“Imagine you have an audit and you have to find that one elusive resident file. The leasing office can’t find it, so you end up driving down to the community and digging through the files yourself,” said Aaron.
Aaron was caught in the paper chase. And he needed help if he was going to put a stop to the never-ending accumulation of paperwork that was turning the audit process into a file cabinet treasure hunt.
CloudFile to the Rescue
“I’m passionate about technology,” said Aaron. “I’m always looking for new ways to leverage technology to make life easier for our staff and apartment residents.” So when Aaron needed a way to simplify the audit process at HNN, he turned to the one multifamily software provider that shared his passion for technology.
On-Site understood that what Aaron needed was a way to move all of HNN’s ancillary leasing and compliance paperwork online. And with Aaron’s input, On-Site developed CloudFile, a new multifamily-specific cloud storage solution that allowed HNN to merge their online and offline leasing processes.
“On-Site’s customers are already living in an online leasing world, but they are surrounded by offline paperwork and processes,” said On-Site’s Director of Design Randy Jones. “With CloudFile, we bring those two worlds together by giving them a way to integrate pre-Internet legacy operations into the online leasing workflow.”
CloudFile allows leasing staff to:
- Archive – scan, fax or email files to the cloud for safe storage
- Access –anytime, anywhere, from any smart phone, tablet or desktop
- Share – grant or restrict access, collaborate with other users
With CloudFile, Aaron and his team now have 24/7 access to every file for every resident at every community in HNN’s entire portfolio. Aaron doesn’t have to ask leasing agents to take time out from their day to search for files or drive down to a site to find files for himself.
In fact, all that Aaron needs to do when auditing tax credit files is use the CloudFile search to find the required files, click print or download, then send the files off to the auditors.
Aaron added, “Because our files are in the cloud, we’ve been able to gain back space in the leasing office that was previously reserved for file storage. And since our files are in the cloud, we have less risk of identity theft and catastrophic loss due to natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy.”
Addressing the Skeptics
Of course, when introducing a new technology, regardless of the benefits, there are going to be skeptics. According to Aaron, some people have expressed concern over data ownership. For example, what would happen if a community using CloudFile were to be transferred to another property management company?
In this situation, Jones explained, “On-Site isn’t interested in holding a client’s data hostage. If for any reason a client needs to retrieve their data, as in the case of a community transfer, we will provide them with all of their files on the media of their choice, for example a DVD or USB flash drive.”
There’s also the issue of access to technology. CloudFile, along with On-Site’s online application, forms automation and E-Sign electronic signature tools, allowed Aaron to move HNN’s entire leasing operation online. However, naysayers have suggested that renters might not have access to the technology required to submit their application or execute their lease documents online, particularly within the world of affordable housing.
To this Aaron said “Technology is not an obstacle in affordable housing, let alone conventional housing. The majority of our residents have a smart phone or tablet, sometimes both, because they appreciate the value and convenience of technology.”
“They like E-Sign and online applications, because they don’t have to take time off from work and sit in a leasing office all day. They can complete those tasks at their convenience,” he said.
And in the off chance a renter doesn’t have access to technology “We’ll leverage our technology to help them lease online,” said Aaron. “Those that don’t have a smart phone or tablet are encouraged to use our business centers or tablet computers.”
The Wave of the Future
For years now, the majority of renters have started their apartment search on the Internet. And in that time, mobile data usage has tripled with smart phones, tablets and ultra light laptops leading the way as the new devices of choice for the rising generation of millennial renters. The latest projections suggest that mobile traffic will surpass desktop traffic as early as 2014.
On-Site believes that appealing to the renter of tomorrow means implementing the latest in leasing technology today. Our end-to-end solutions cover everything from marketing your communities and qualifying renters to e-signing lease contracts and storing documents electronically.
This means that data only needs to be typed once, and information flows from lead, to prospect, to applicant, to approved applicant, to resident—eliminating the need to key in information a second, third or even fourth time. As a result, operators are shifting their focus on system integration and usability from their own staff’s use to one that emphasizes the renter’s user experience. The result is a simplified leasing process that leads to greater customer satisfaction and translates directly to the positive side of the balance sheet.
“Imagine you have an audit and you have to find that one elusive resident file. The leasing office can’t find it, so you end up driving down to the community and digging through the files yourself."