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Marketing Your Clients

Published: September 27, 2012

MARKETING YOUR CLIENTS TO HOUSING PROVIDERS

Finding vacant rental units in the right price range is only part of our job. You also need to develop a strategy for convincing landlords and property managers that your clients area good choice to live in their apartments.

In tight housing markets, many tenants are competing for decent apartments. It’s helpful if landlords know something about your clients and the services you provide. You can do this by talking to individual landlords and by talking to groups of landlords. The more the housing providers in your community know about the humanitarian nature of our work, the more likely it is they will be willing to help.

Even non-profit housing providers must operate their properties as a business. In addition to making the case that refugees need help, you need to convince landlords that renting to refugees makes good business sense.

Think about what fears and hesitations landlords may have:
How do I communicate with these tenants?
What if there’s an emergency? I don’t want to be liable if they don’t understand what I’m telling them.
Do they understand what we expect in this country about noise, cleanliness, damage?
Are refugees here legally? Are there some special rules I have to follow because they’re not citizens?
Will it be harder to evict these tenants if they don’t follow the rules?
They don’t have jobs – how will they pay the rent?

Your job is to convince landlords to move beyond their fears by providing realistic information about your clients and the refugee program.

Never forget that cultivating landlords does not end when the family moves in. Keeping in contact with the landlord on a regular basis will go a long way to avoid problems and encourage the landlord to rent to your clients again. It also helps when landlords talk to each other. You want them to pass the word along that your agency was helpful and responsive even after the lease was signed.

TALK TO INDIVIDUAL LANDLORDS

Be proactive! Try to visit with the managers and leasing agents for properties targeted to low-income families before you need to rent an apartment. Set up an appointment, bring a brochure about your agency, give them specific information about refugees (see below to order brochures from us). Tell them success stories about previous clients who have become self-sufficient.
Information a landlord needs:

  1. Identify what you're willing to provide. Your clients will be very attractive to managers of low-income properties if you are able to assure the landlord that you will provide case management support, will be available to work out problems that may arise, will provide translation services, etc. Many other people who are seeking low-income units don't come with those services
     
  2. Give them the facts about the United States’ refugee resettlement program. Use the brochure we have developed, or create one of your own:

    Landlord Guide Page 1
    Landlord Guide Page 2

    If you’re anticipating arrivals from a particular part of the world, provide background information on that culture that would be of interest. The Center for Applied Linguistics (www.cal.org) has created a series of downloadable fact sheets on a number of refugee populations.

    If you develop a “fact sheet” of your own, consider covering these facts:

    Refugees enter the country legally
    Case management and employment services are provided
    You are available to solve problems and provide translation
    In some cultures, payment of rent is the highest budget priority
    Put a face on the refugee -- include some refugee success stories
    Balance your approach to potential landlords between "good business decisions" and "sympathy"

    Provide details about your housing orientation process. Show the landlord the materials you use for housing orientation, such as the booklet “Welcome to Your New Home”. Explain who gives the orientation and when it occurs. Talk about your home visit program.
     
  3. Show how the family will be able to pay the rent. Without providing exact dollar amounts, tell the landlord what the sources of income are for the family and how the employment program works
     
  4. Show how the family will be able to pay the rent. Without providing exact dollar amounts, tell the landlord what the sources of income are for the family and how the employment program works

    TALK TO GROUPS OF LANDLORDS

    There are many forums available through which you can efficiently "sell" refugees and the refugee program to landlords, managers and nonprofit developers.
    Property management companies
    Local or regional apartment management associations
    Seminars sponsored by HUD or other groups for non-profit housing developers
    Conferences and trainings for apartment managers
    Chambers

    Find such groups through the following umbrella organizations: National Apartment Association -- www.naahq.org. In the left column, go to the “Membership” topic and choose “Search for Affiliates”. This page will show you all affiliates by state or zip code.

    The Institute for Real Estate Management -- www.irem.org -- provides extensive training for apartment managers. Go to “Find My Chapter” in the list on the top right side, choose USA, and then click on your state on the map. Call the local chapter and ask to make a presentation at one of their meetings.


    National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials -- www.nahro.org – primarily serves operators of housing targeted to low-income families. Click on “About NAHRO” in the left column, then choose “Regions and Chapters” at the bottom of the list and click on your state. NAHRO also sponsors many housing seminars throughout the US.

    National Affordable Housing Management Association -- www.nahma.org/ – is another group that serves affordable housing managers, including many training opportunities. Click on “About NAHMA” in the left column, then click on the “AHMAS” link in the second paragraph of the text. Choose your state from the map for local contac information.


    Ask local apartment managers what associations exist locally.

STRATEGIES FOR WORKING WITH LANDLORDS

Strategy 1. Give a presentation or workshop to the group.

Provide the same types of information you would give to an individual landlord. Or create a workshop outline and submit it to conference organizers – they’re always looking for good speakers. Perhaps broaden the topic to include non-refugee immigrant groups, something like “Working well with limited English tenants.”

Strategy 2. Meet with landlords and managers to find out what problems they’re encountering generally, and what they are looking for in a good tenant.

People often are more willing to meet if you are asking them for their ideas and feedback, rather than making a presentation. Use the occasion to really listen to the landlords – understand their motivations and problems. Come up with creative ways to address the issues together. This kind of meeting is also a great opportunity to educate landlords about the refugee program.

Strategy 3. Develop a Renter’s Training Program

  • Work with a landlord or two to create the curriculum. Use topics identified by landlords and managers, as well as topics appropriate for the particular refugee culture you are placing in housing
  • Provide a certificate upon completion which refugees can present to landlords
  • Market the training to landlords as an assurance that refugees will meet the expectations of landlords

A tenant training program helps refugees understand their right and responsibilities and gives them the tools to be successful tenants. The program can emphasize the importance of being good tenants as the first step toward good credit, needed to buy a car, get a credit card and ultimately to buy a home.

in one city, a company marketing renters’ insurance to tenants paid for such classes in exchange for an opportunity to present information about their products. Maybe the apartment association in your town would help pay the cost!