We all remember 5th grade social studies, right? Well if you do, you surely recall the Constitutional mandate that a census be taken every ten (10) years in order to re-apportion the representation each state has in the United States Congress. In March, 2020, the federal government began the process of attempting to count each person in the United States in order to complete the “census”. As part of this process, you likely have been contacted by “census takers” demanding information from you, or access to your properties, in order to complete this counting. This has led to many clients asking whether they need to provide this information or allow these unknown persons to enter their buildings and knock on doors.
Title 13 of the United States Code, Section 223 provides that that an owner or manager of an apartment complex that refuses, or willfully neglects, to assist an accredited representative of the Department of Commerce in collecting information as it relates to the census, shall be fined not more than $500.00. As such, an owner is not only permitted to provide information to such persons, but the failure to do so could lead to significant fines.
Based on this federal law, in the event that a manager is approached by a person seeking information or access in relation to the 2020 Census, the manager should initially confirm whether the person is, in fact, properly authorized as a Census employee. The agent should present identification that includes the agent’s name, their photograph, a Department of Commerce watermark, and an expiration date. You may also independently confirm the agent’s credentials by entering the agent’s name in the Census Bureau’s staff search website. (https://www.census.gov/cgi-bin/main/email.cgi) If they fail to provide proper identification, or you cannot confirm their credentials, you do not have to provide access or answer questions to assist. Once you confirm the credentials of the agent, you should provide access to the person and, if requested, provide a list confirming each occupant’s name, address, and age. You may also consider having this person escorted through the property for security purposes and impose reasonable COVID-19 related requirements, such a wearing a proper face covering and requiring the person to confirm that they have not had a COVID-19 potential exposure or symptoms. Otherwise, failure to provide access and information could lead to potential consequence.
As always, the foregoing is for informational purposes only and you should contact our office should you have any legal questions or desire to discuss this issue further.