Since the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) was passed in 2000, which provides for the use of electronic records and signatures, many vendors have jumped on the bandwagon and begun to offer generic electronic signature (e-signature) solutions to a broad spectrum of industries—from legal to medical and even sports—as a means of quickly and conveniently executing legal documents. Unfortunately, this plethora of available options presents a problem. How do you distinguish one e‑signature solution from the rest? You might be surprised to know that not all e‑signature products are created equal.

A Google search on “electronic signatures” reveals over 12 different e‑signature providers within the first page of results. At a glance, any one of these generic e‑signature solutions might seem like a viable way of going paperless and getting your community off its addiction to pen and paper processes; however, most e-signature solutions are made with tolerances loose enough that they can fit the needs of any application. These one-size fits all solutions fail to take into account the unique needs of the multifamily industry.

Conversely, there are significant advantages to picking an e-signature solution tailor-made for use in the apartment industry. When researching e-signature providers, here are six must-have features to look for.

1.    Integral I.D. checks

Look for an e-signature solution with integral I.D checks. A proper multifamily-specific e-signature solution achieves this by tying the e-signature solution with your resident screening. A unified resident screening/e-signature system ensures compliance at the property level by blocking e‑signature access until screening has been completed. Renters can’t e-sign a lease document unless the resident screening process has determined that they are who they say they are.

2.    System agnostic

Look for a solution that is system agnostic. Your chosen e-signature solution should be compatible with your existing system infrastructure. Typically, this means opting for an online application that doesn’t require the purchase of other expensive products to make it functional or require any software to be installed locally.

3.    Made for mobile

Choose a solution that is optimized for mobile and allows renters to e-sign from their smart phone or tablet, whenever and wherever they choose. By making it easy for renters to do business with you, you let them know that you value convenience—and their time. How much importance does the average renter place on convenient, timesaving processes? Consider a recent study conducted by On-Site, which shows that communities that allow renters to execute lease documents via e‑signatures close approximately 25% more leases than sister communities that do not use e‑signatures.

4.    Signing ceremony management

Look for a solution that can handle complex signing ceremonies. A given lease document can, and often does, have multiple roommates, each with their own guarantors. Generic e-signature solutions aren’t designed to handle these complexities. An e-signature solution made for multifamily brings applicants, co-applicants and guarantors together through an automated signing ceremony that conveniently tracks signing progress for you. Upon completion, leasing staff receives an email notification, prompting them to countersign accordingly.

5.    Free support when you need it

Look for a solution that offers free product support. Your leasing staff shouldn’t be the first line response team in the event that a renter has a technical issue when executing an e-signature. Your chosen e-signature provider should be available to help renters and leasing staff by phone, email or chat, seven days a week—at no extra charge—so that your leasing staff can focus on closing leases.

6.    Integral online storage

Opt for a solution with integral, long-term online storage. Some generic e-signature solutions store completed lease documents for a limited time only; e.g. 30 days. Even worse, some providers won’t store completed lease documents at all, forcing you to seek out your own 3rd party storage provider. In either case, leasing staff typically end up saving or printing all documents locally, which defeats two of the primary advantages to using e-signatures: storing documents securely online and reducing paper costs. Storing documents online has the additional benefit of ensuring that the document’s contents cannot be changed or tampered with after signing. In order to change the lease documents, they must be regenerated which would throw away the e-signatures and nullify the documents.

In the end, trying to introduce a generic e-signature product at an apartment community can feel like trying to pound a square peg into a round hole. Avoid the headaches and invest in a solution made expressly to fit the unique needs of the multifamily industry. And if you already have an e-signature provider that doesn’t incorporate these must have features, then maybe it’s time to start shopping around.

For more information about implementing an e-signature solution at your community, ask the experts at On‑Site. We pioneered e-signatures for the apartment industry with the introduction of E-Sign in 2006. To learn how to add E-Sign to your leasing workflow, call us at (888) 556-6748.

About On-Site

On-Site is teaching the apartment industry something Apple and Google learned years ago: usability is king. We’re bringing the industry up-to-speed with what today’s consumer expects from an online experience. Conveniently and securely, we allow today’s renter to find an available apartment, qualify, pay and e-sign. Our 100% paperless listing-to-lease platform encompasses marketing, lead generation, risk mitigation, document storage, mobile solutions and cloud computing services. Founded in 1999, On‑Site has been voted Best Resident Screening Service three years in a row and our paperless office platform was a finalist in the First Annual Green Initiatives Awards from Multi-Housing News.