If you haven’t met Matt Golis yet, chances are you soon will, especially if you’re a former user of PropertyBridge’s electronic rental payments platform. In September, the Oakland, Calif.-based PropertyBridge was acquired by Walnut Creek, Calif.-based YapStone, where Golis is CEO and has planned out a fall travel schedule to touch base with all of PropertyBridge’s customers. “We’re now in the midst of meeting with most of PropertyBridge’s top clients in person,” Golis says. “We’re doing a mini-road show about what the acquisition means to them.”
It means two things: Current PropertyBridge customers now have access to YapStone’s pay-by-text functionality, but they will still retain the pay-by-cash option at MoneyGram locations as well. “We’ve had mobile payment technologies for almost two years now, particularly rent-by-text, where the landlord can SMS message and as soon as the resident replies it immediately processes the payment,” Golis says. “As you can imagine, that has exploded in popularity, particularly with student housing in the last couple of years. But we’re likewise excited about the pay-by-cash option that PropertyBridge had through MoneyGram because it opens us up to the Section 8 and subsidized housing sections of the industry in offering those renters more flexible options to make their rental payments.”
All this help in migrating more renters to electronic payment platforms is being helped along by new debit card fee regulations contained in the Durbin Amendment to the Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. A last-minute addition to the legislation, the first of three phases to the Durbin Amendment went into effect on October 1, and breaks down transaction fees to a base of 21 cents plus 0.05 percent (plus an additional cent when certain thresholds are crossed). The upshot is a cheaper transaction fee to apartment managers who accept debit as a form of electronic payment.
"The continued growth of electronic/mobile bill payments, combined with recent federal regulation, presents property management companies a favorable environment to consider accepting credit and debit cards for monthly rent payments," says Michelle Shapiro, director of U.S. market development and emerging verticals for Mastercard. "This would be a win/win for both property management companies and their renters. Renters benefit from the convenience of card-based payments, while property managers receive a guaranteed payment with favorable economics."
Golis cautions that the Durbin Amendment does not include smaller community banks and that those operators off of the Wells Fargo / Bank of America beaten track might still see typical debit transaction costs. “A key part of Durbin is that they exempted financial institutions with assets of $10 billion or less from that pricing,” Golis says. “We’ve heard that 30 percent to 40 percent of debit will not actually qualify.”
After payment, Golis says renters continue to show interest in the reporting of their rent check to credit bureaus, which likewise are interested in collecting rental payment history as a way to deepen understanding of consumer credit and additionally assist screening companies in green lighting rental prospects on a lease.
That’s just fine with the folks at Costa Mesa, Calif.-based Experian RentBureau, who have been building out their rental payment history database since last January. “We’re continuing to grow the database and expand the reach of the data,” says Experian RentBureau vice president and managing director Brannan Johnston. “And more screeners are starting to integrate that into their decisioning process. It’s exciting.”