The sound of a lease

Michelle Brown was stunned by the news. A stranger had walked into her landlord's office and stole her rental application form. By using the information Michelle was forced to disclose to her property management office, this stranger had assumed her identity with the theft of a single document. As the year progressed, the strange phone calls began-"Ms. Brown, we are inquiring about a late payment on your new automobile."


“Ms. Brown, it appears that there is a warrant out for your arrest;” and finally, “Ms. Brown, your record shows a prison sentence due to illegal drug trafficking.”

Through this single instance of identity theft, Brown’s life was turned upside down. Following her testimony to Congress, new laws were enacted, but the threat remains. Identity theft can still take years from which to recover, and this common threat destroys the credit, records, and bank accounts of millions of individuals every year.

And this one began in a leasing office.

Over eleven million Americans will fall victim to identity theft this year. On the most basic level and as a respository of vast amounts of personal data, the multihousing industry is wise to adopt new tools that protect the privacy of their residents and the liability of its owners. Consumers will soon demand these measures, and the current practice of paper-based operations, and inefficient processes that leave residents, management and owners exposed, will become an ancient practice and a leasing hurdle. New technologies are in place that make leasing operations more secure, and create efficiency for landlords and residents, alike.

One of the technology advances lies in the area of digital signatures: voice signatures. The Voice Signature Service (VSS) is a powerful technology that provides ubiquitous, on-demand voice authentication and legally-binding voice signatures for leases and other legal contracts and agreements.

Users provide their voice signature over a telephone, mobile device, or through a microphone-equipped computer. With this service, the need to “print out” rental applications and lease agreements becomes further obsolete. Full contract execution can now be achieved digitally and instantly, and most important, legally. The voice signature service lets prospects sign documents and contracts over the phone in less than 10 seconds.

That’s less time than it generally takes to find a working pen. The efficiencies the VSS system delivers to a leasing office are significant. VSS allows landlords to further protect themselves from privacy infringement lawsuits and liabilities. Implementing the system delivers an added layer of security to prospects and residents, and clearly identifies that their property management company is making every effort to protect the personal information in their care.

As an additional security layer, users of this technology can be confident that all voice models are stored anonymously, and that no personal or private information is connected directly with their speech data.

Here’s a snapshot of the process: The leasing consultant generates a new lease for a hot prospect and emails it to him/her for review and approval. After reviewing the lease, the prospect is then asked to call a phone number to “electronically” sign the document.

The signer then enters in a 5-digit number on their phone keypad, the one provided in the email, and listens to a “signature statement” associated with the lease. This is followed by a few prompt-phrases that the caller is asked to repeat. These prompt-phrases are used to enroll, or authenticate, the signatory-based voice, automatically charting the unique biometric characteristics of that person’s voice.

That’s it. This 3-step process constitutes a legally-binding signature of their lease. In addition, a landlord can even use this service to verify the new resident’s identity when they come to pick up the keys, ensuring they match the person who actually signed the lease.

But the secured process doesn’t stop there. The voice signature service also allows property staff to confirm that the individual picking up the keys to the apartment is one and the same to the person who signed the lease. This is done quickly and easily with the same voice recognition file completed for the lease signature.

VSS is the way of the future for multifamily properties. Not only does it provide a secure method of handling the private records of prospects and residents, it also delivers a simplier line-of-sight on closing and securing leases at the site level, and in real-time.

It’s also tried-and-true and multifamily is not the first to come on board with biometerics: The process has long been in use with the State of Florida to register and renew SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits. This newest version of “food stamps,” is yet, a program ripe with fraud. To eliminate such misuse, biometric voice signatures are used to provide the necessary signatures and authentication.

The VSS is also currently being adopted for enrollment verification in Medicaid and Medicare. As Paul Heirendt, the co-founder and CEO of TradeHarbor, the provider of Voice Signature describes, “VSS has been used by many different categories of consumers from children to the elderly with great success.” The technology is here, and a perfect solution to protect both renters and landlords.

The American Bar Association published a white paper on the case-law requirements that must be met for a signature to be legally-binding. These can be summed up in three points: authentication, authorization, and audit trail.

The voice signature service easily meets all legal threashholds and in a seamless way. The identity of a remote participant is scientifically-confirmed by the VSS in a userfriendly manner. The provable cooperative act of a VSS user is analogous to the user signing a document providing authorization. The VSS creates a voice signature record for every interaction, which provides an audit trail to show the authorization for a specific transaction, by a specific person, originated from an identified source.

All of this happens in the background. For the user, it is a quick and easy phone call. In addition, there are never passwords for them to remember; the caller simply repeats phrases. And there is nothing to remember, a person’s voice is always with them. Prospects can sign over the phone, using a mobile device, or using a computer microphone. Signatures can be made remotely, or from the leasing office.

The advantages of this service are significant for the multihousing industry. With the growing demographic of young techsavvy renters, voice signatures will differentiate properties from those going “oldschool,” requiring prospects to sign and fax back leases.

Future residents will demand faster technological solutions to streamline the leasing process. And properties will also benefit from a reduction in the cost of handling, and steamlined close processes.

“Properties using the voice signature service have experienced an ROI (return on investment) of 5-to-1; in some cases up to 25-to-1, and increased closing ratios of as much as 2.5x,” says Heirendt.

SyndicIT, a Hampton Falls, N.H., company and specialist in paperless operations, has adopted the voice signature service as part of its document management system. The company provides seamless interaction of voice signatures on documents, and stores them in the document management system tailored exclusively for multihousing.

Together, document management and voice signatures can empower a property to make any transaction, secure and paperless. Access and retrieval of documents is instant, and managers can protect their properties and residents from document misfiling, damage, loss, and theft.

Author: Lauryn Schimmel is managing director of SyndicIT Services