US CENSUS AND PROPERTY MANAGER COMPLIANCE
A census is the legally mandated counting of people in the United States and its territories. It fulfills an important constitutional purpose. While each state has two Senators to represent it in the United States Senate, the number of Representatives in the United States House of Representatives is based upon the population of the state: the greater the population, the greater the number of Representatives. The power of any state to advance its legislative agenda and to secure benefits for its citizens increases with the number of Representatives which it has. In addition, the census is the basis for distribution of many government benefits and programs for schools, hospitals, transportation, and most importantly to managers, housing. It is particularly important for Florida, whose population has increased since the last census, to get every person counted.
National Census Day
National Census Day is the day on which the “count” is fixed. April 1st is the relevant day, whether the questionnaire is completed or the census worker visits before or after April 1st. Census takers are more properly called “enumerators”. During March of that year, questionnaires are mailed to residences to be returned in April. From April through July, enumerators will visit homes that did not return the questionnaires. In an accommodation to America’s multi-lingual nature, enumerators will carry cards in numerous languages. The cards will inform non-English speaking interviewees that they should tell the enumerators their language, and the Census Bureau will follow up with someone speaking their language. If the resident is not home at the time of the enumerator’s visit, the enumerator will leave a notice of visit on the resident’s door. The resident can use the contact information to arrange a convenient time for the re-visit. The personal interviews take less than half an hour.
The census is “legally mandated”. Enumerators have the legal right to have access to individual homes and multi-family properties to collect census information. Enumerators may have to return several times to collect the information. Various other census workers may seek access to the residents for census related operations, such as non-response follow-up re-interviews (quality check of an enumerator’s prior interview), census coverage follow-up (check possible double counting or clarify responses to prior questions), and field verification of mismatching addresses. There is the possibility that enumerators will contact some residents several times in the various follow-up and verification interviews. Managers should recognize this and expect some resident complaints about multiple interviews. Residents should be told to direct any complaints or comments to the Census Bureau, as the manager cannot prevent, limit or interfere with enumerators.
As part of the census the Census Bureau is performing another mandatory survey: the American Community Survey. The ACS collects population and housing information. Managers are required to cooperate in the ACS.
Managers’ Cooperation Required
Managers and their agents are required to cooperate and take reasonable steps to assist the enumerators by permitting access. If the enumerator is unable to make contact, the manager/agent should also assist by indicating the best time to contact residents, if known to the manager/agent. Finally, the enumerator may not be able to establish contact, and request the manager/agent to compile certain information on the occupants. The law does not provide for the option to demand written notice or written requests from enumerators as to what they want. So, managers/agents should neither expect nor require that enumerators give written demands for information. Enumerators will attempt to schedule mutually convenient times for meetings and allow managers/agents adequate time to gather and respond to information requests. However, given the deadlines imposed on the Census Bureau for completion of the census, the enumerators will expect a quick response.
The Census Bureau’s position
The U.S. Census Bureau has advised the National Multi-Housing Council as follows:
If the enumerator is unable to contact the occupant within the specified number of attempts, the enumerator may ask for as much information as the owner/manager can provide for an occupied unit. However, if the owner/manager states that the unit was not occupied on April 1, 2010, the enumerator will complete the questionnaire using the owner/manager as a knowledgeable respondent for the vacant unit.
The owner/manager should provide the information necessary to complete the census questionnaire, to the best of his or her knowledge. Questions on the census questionnaire have been approved by law, and the owner/manager is not in violation of any privacy laws if he or she provides the requested information. Although the owner/manager may not be able to answer all questions, such as race or ethnicity, an attempt by the owner/manager to provide available information should be made.
Managers/agents can demand to see the enumerator’s identification. The Census Bureau indicates that all enumerators will have official government ID badges and may be carrying “US Census Bureau” bags. Managers/agents can request that the enumerator present his government ID badge and another picture ID badge. If a Florida manager/agent wants further verification, he can contact the Regional Census Center for Florida in Atlanta, Georgia at 404-335-1555. Enumerators are not permitted to enter the residents’ homes, and therefore, they should never request to do so.
Since managers and their agents will be the secondary source of information, the more residents that the enumerators contact, the less time and work will be needed by managers/agents with enumerators. Managers may wish to alert their residents that census workers will be on the property. Managers may also want to inform residents that census workers may not request to enter residences, and that residents can verify their identity by requesting to see their ID badges, and if in doubt, they can contact the Regional Census Center. Follow-up notices will be left on a resident’s door, if the resident is not home at the time of the census worker’s visit. (For simplicity in notice to residents, we advise referring to them as “census workers” rather than “enumerators”.)
Managers should be aware that like any other government program, the census will have its fair share of scams and scam artists impersonating enumerators. Enumerators do not use email or the internet to contact anyone. Enumerators will not ask to enter the home “to go to the bathroom” or for any other reason. Enumerators or census forms do not request donations, social security numbers, or detailed financial, banking or credit card information. Enumerators may use the phone to follow up on questions on a returned questionnaire, but will never ask questions beyond the ones on the census questionnaire. Be careful of relying on caller-id as proof of the caller’s identity, as scam artists can make it appear to be from the “Census Bureau”.
Managers are not violating the privacy of their residents, as managers are required by law (Section 223 of Title 13, United States Code) to comply, and are subject to a fine for failure to comply. Enumerators should have available for managers/agents a Confidentiality Notice. The Census Bureau only collects the information required by the law and imposes strict confidentiality requirements on those collecting and processing the census information. Federal law provides penalties of up to five years in prison and a $25,000 fine for the unauthorized disclosure of personal data by any enumerator or other census worker. Anyone who suspects an unauthorized disclosure can contact the Chief Privacy Officer for the Census Bureau, who is responsible for implementing privacy policies.
Managers/agents should expect that their files may very well lack some information sought. Fair Housing concerns have limited managers from acquiring information on ethnicity or race. Managers/agents are only required to supply the information that they have. The questionnaire consists of only 10 questions, but 5 of the questions have to be answered and re-answered for each occupant of the residence. The enumerator will assist the manager/agent with any interpretations of what a question is seeking.
In conclusion, managers have a vested interest in cooperating in the census. It brings some of those hard-earned tax dollars back to Florida and the manager’s community. Managers have a legal obligation and an economic incentive to see that every person in their apartment communities or rentals is counted. For more information on a Census, visit the website of the US Census Bureau.
- The Curable Noncompliance Examined PART 1
- THE CURABLE NONCOMPLIANCE EXAMINED PART 2
- THE WRIT OF POSSESSION – WHAT IT IS
- THE WRIT OF POSSESSION AND THE FULL UNIT
- WORK ORDER COMPANY POLICY AND THE LAW