Rate Your Landlord? Tenants Turn the Tables

ama logo and photpCredit checks, references and questions about employment are routine, if unpleasant, aspects of renting a place to live. And traditionally landlords have had the right to dig into a potential tenant’s life in any way that doesn’t violate housing discrimination laws. Tenants, on the other hand, have had to subject themselves to scrutiny in the search for living quarters without any way to return the favor – until now. To the consternation of landlord/investors in a number of locations around the country, landlord-rating sites are allowing renters to share information about bad (and good) landlords with the world.

“Rating” sites are not new – a number of websites offer opportunities to review everything from restaurants to teachers, and comments can range from the informative to the vitriolic, with few controls on the accuracy of what’s posted. So it’s not surprising that landlords would become the target of the trend as well – and that’s why some rental property investors view these sites with some concern.

Many landlord rating sites are highly localized, focusing on a particular region or market WhoseYourLandlord, sponsored by a group of Temple University students who really should know their grammar better, is designed to help collegiate renters near the school, while LandlordRatings targets areas in New York. Others, such as PickALandlord, RateMyLandlord, and TenantNet, have a national reach, allowing users to search by region and city.

Landlord rating sites typically have a listings page where users can search for landlords by either the landlord’s name or the property name. New landlords can be easily added by any user with a story to share. Some feature four or five star rating systems or similar mechanisms for a quick overview, and a comment board or forum for more detailed discussion.

Commentary on landlord rating sites typically includes anecdotes recounting problems with landlords such as failures to fix broken appliances and make repairs and inappropriate or illegal landlord behavior. Users advise each other on legal options and offer resources for help solving a variety of problems such as fighting evictions and getting deposits back.

Do these sites help or hurt? Renters see them as a form of empowerment. As one renter pointed out on TenantNet, “Landlords get to find out all kinds of things about us, so it’s only fair.” And certain populations such as the Temple U students who may face discrimination on the basis of age or other characteristics are looking for ways to “out” the culprits to other would be renters.

On the other hand, landlords can be the victims of smear campaigns by disgruntled renters, with no way

to set the record straight. Rental incomes can suffer too if postings on a board warn renters away from a particular property or owner. And although positive comments and good ratings pop up too, most people post to talk about a negative experience.

For good or ill, ratings and review sites are here to stay – for landlords as well. Rental property investors following Jason Hartman’s recommendations for wealth building n real estate may want to search for themselves on a site or two – just to keep posted on what renters have to say.  (Top image: Sawdust_media)

The American Monetary Association Team

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