CAN-SPAM Act Compliance And Why It’s Important For Your Real Estate Business

finger touching email envelope

It’s difficult to grow your real estate business without an incoming flow of new customers. Marketing is an important part of making that happen. But, if you’re sending out cold emails to grow your list, or even touching base with former clients via email, you need to be aware of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003.

What is the CAN-SPAM Act?

CAN-SPAM sets standards that you need to comply with in all of your email marketing. It’s designed to control the increasing problem of fraudulent or deceptive commercial emails.

The CAN-SPAM Act protects recipients who have the right to say they don’t want unsolicited emails from you. And it doesn’t just apply to  bulk emails. It actually covers all messages of a commercial nature. The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) defines this as “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service.”

Whether you’re sending updates, new listings, newsletters via your CRM to all your contacts, or you’re just sending single emails to keep in touch with former clients, you must be CAN-SPAM compliant to avoid potential fines.

Maintaining your compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act 2003

There are significant penalties for failing to comply with the CAN-SPAM Act. So it’s important to know when the Act applies and what you need to do to ensure you meet the standards. Whether the Act applies or not is based on the message’s “primary purpose”.

The FTC applies CAN-SPAM to emails with commercial content. Emails with advertising or that promote your business services or product are “commercial content,” so  the CAN-SPAM Act applies. If a message relates to transactional or relationship content, the CAN-SPAM Act may not apply. This would include emails with existing clients where you’re negotiating transactions or communicating about your current business together.

Here are four main requirements you need to abide by in order to comply with the CAN-SPAM standards:

1. You must provide accurate information
It’s important all fields of your email, including the “To” and “From” section, your email address and domain name, are all 100% accurate. Your email must clearly identify you as the sender.

2. Subject lines must not be deceptive
Your subject line in your email  shouldn’t mislead the recipient. Be clear about your subject and avoid any ambiguity. If the content of your email is an advertisement or an unsolicited email, it’s best to be upfront about what the content inside relates to.

Inaccurate subject titles or “click-bait and switch” tactics (using a subject line that doesn’t relate to the content of your email)  are only likely to land your message in contacts’ SPAM folders or prompt them to unsubscribe from your emails.  If you’re trying to reach new clients, accurate subject lines will yield results in the long run.

3. Opting out must be easy
You must provide an opportunity for recipients to unsubscribe if they don’t want to receive further emails from you. If you’re using a CRM or automated mailing list software, such as Aweber or MailChimp, you’ll have options to include an unsubscribe link or button at the bottom of your emails. If not, you must manually include a return email address to unsubscribe.

The unsubscribe process must be a single step.  You can’t require the contact to login to anything to unsubscribe, or require answers to any questions before unsubscribing.

When a recipient does opt-out, you have 10 working days to remove them from your list. Failure to do so means you’ll be non-compliant with the CAN-SPAM Act.

4. Include a postal  mailing address in your email
The Act insists you include a postal mailing address in any email correspondence. It can be the actual location of your real estate business, or it can be a post office box. This actually makes good business sense anyway. Including a physical mailing address ensures there is no confusion about where you’re located. It may also encourage your recipients to visit you when they next need real estate services.

You can’t contract away legal responsibility

Does CAN-SPAM compliance seem a lot to manage along with everything else in your real estate business? If so, subcontracting the management of your promotional email  may be an attractive option. But, you are still ultimately responsible for your own compliance. This is true, even if someone else is handling this on your behalf. Be sure a subcontractor understands the CAN-SPAM standards. You cannot contract away your legal responsibilities.

Most CRM email automation tools have built in systems to include your physical address and easy opt-out steps.

Many systems also provide “SPAM” checker tools. These tools review your email content and subject line and highlight potential “spam triggers.”  Spam triggers are words that may identify your email as spam by receiving email systems.   You may want to modify the wording you’re using to help more of your email messages to be delivered.

Protecting you from everyday risks in your real estate business

Obtaining insurance, such as Real Estate Errors & Omissions (E&O) Insurance, can be an effective tool to help manage everyday risk in your real estate business. CRES Real Estate E&O + ClaimPrevent® policies include our advice hotline to speak to local real estate attorneys. This hotline is available 7 days a week at no extra charge, meaning you’ll be able to get advice when you need it and prevent E&O claims before they occur.

CRES specializes in E&O insurance for real estate professionals. Contact us at 800.880.2747 to speak to a CRES real estate errors and omissions  professional today.

Do you use email marketing in your real estate business? What checks do you make to ensure compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act?

This blog/website is made available by CRES Insurance Services for educational purposes to give you general information and understanding of legal risks and insurance options, not to provide specific legal advice. This blog/website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state. Claims examples are for illustrative purposes only. Read your policy for a complete description of what is covered and excluded.

Originally Published January 3, 2018

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