Respecting a homeowner’s personal space is always a concern when a remodeling project is underway. Now, that extends to the airwaves: Is it okay to ask to access a homeowner’s WiFi network just as you would an electrical outlet?
It’s a touchy topic because of security concerns, say etiquette experts. Tapping WiFi is a bigger ask than it initially appears, given virtual home assistants like Amazon’s Alexa; “smart” appliances that communicate with each other and with homeowners’ smartphones; and cloud-connected home security and control systems.
The best policy is to open the conversation by framing the request as a win for the customer.
“Just ask up front,” advises etiquette consultant, author, speaker and Florida resident Patricia Rossi, who navigated renovator logistics in the process of her just-completed kitchen and bath remodels.
Explain how the WiFi system helps you better collaborate with the client, by tapping plans, drawings and forms that you need to share with them, says Rossi.
Her recommended wording: “If you don’t mind sharing the password, it will save us time so we can refer to the plans and stay on track with the project.”
She and Jodi Smith, owner of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting, in Massachusetts, agree that proactively recommending that the homeowner change the WiFi password at a certain date – when the project should be completed – signals your awareness of the security concerns.
“The key word here is pre-emptive,” says Smith. She advises that you create a one-page project etiquette checklist that outlines access to the house and requested access to the customer’s WiFi It should include:
- An explanation of how you will use the WiFi service;
- Your commitment to not share it with anyone else;
- Your recommendation that the homeowner change the password at a certain date;
- Designates which door the homeowner wants you and your crew to use to enter and exit the house;
- The names of the crew members;
- And how to handle contact with any pets or small children.
Giving the homeowner this list in advance lets him have the password ready, or change it temporarily. It’s also a chance to review other digital systems and security issues, such as whether or not an action-activated alarm or light system needs to be disabled for the duration of the project; or whether or not the homeowner has security cameras that will be recording your crew’s work.
She might not say it, but the homeowner likely will wonder if your access to her home’s WiFi will actually slow down work on her project, if you are constantly picking up e-mail, checking social media and managing other projects in the cloud all from her back porch. Assure the homeowner – in person and in writing – that you will only use the WiFi to get her project done more quickly, says Smith.
“While you’re in that customer’s house, you should be paying attention to that job, and it deserves 100% of your attention,” says Smith. “It doesn’t enhance your professionalism to go to the homeowner and ask to surf on their WiFi to take care of a client that’ not them. They should be your number one priority. I don’t want you checking facebook or email. I want you paying attention to my job and getting it done so you can get out of my house.”
Part of the checklist would be what smart home elements you might not even realize are there. Security cameras and internet-equipped doorbells can be tripped repeatedly in the normal course of working on a house. Yet, homeowners understandably don’t want to disable such safeguards precisely because the activity of construction draws attention to their houses.
Reviewing WiFi and wireless services in advance helps head off false emergencies. And be sure you have all the homeowners’ contact numbers so you can quickly coordinate if an alert triggers, despite everyone’s best efforts. That positions WiFi awareness as one more detail you’re covering as part of the job.
Joanne Cleaver is a widely published freelance business author, writer and former deputy business/real estate editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. She and her husband have renovated three historic homes.