Liz Burtt would start out thinking she had just rented a little piece of paradise, only to find herself locked into an unexpected purgatory she couldn’t easily escape.
It happened again and again. There were property managers who ignored repair requests and landlords who showed up unannounced at the oddest hours. Especially frustrating were the unreturned security deposits after doing everything required.
Armed with better information going in, Burtt said she would have made different choices and avoided a lot of frustration. So late last year, she launched Renting Right, a website that gathers reviews and comments on the “unknowns” people don’t find out about until after they sign a lease and move in.
“Landlords do all the research on tenants before they let you rent,” Burtt said. Credit scores, criminal background checks, prior landlord references, and employment verification — tenants must leap through numerous hoops to prove they are worthy.
But tenants don’t have equivalent resources out there to screen the people behind the properties they are moving into. Sites that list rentals often come with reviews and ratings and fancy pictures, but those are focused on the living quarters and amenities.
Getting information about the intangibles and the level of customer service provided is much harder. Listing sites aren’t about to bite the hand of the property owner paying them.
Burtt said the market sorely needed the equivalent of a Yelp for tenants, which is what Denver-based Renting Right seeks to provide. The site, focused on metro Denver but with plans to expand, is straight forward. Type in an address, leave a rating from zero to five stars, provide comments and then submit.
“I don’t foresee an issue. If a landlord is doing the right thing, as they should, good reviews will follow. If they don’t, that’s on them,” said Nancy Burke, vice president of government affairs for the Apartment Association of Metro Denver.
Renting Right allows owners and managers to claim a property and respond to complaints: That deposit didn’t get returned because the tenant snuck out with four months left on the lease.
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And the comments aren’t expected to be all about the landlord. For example, does the neighbor to Apartment 896 have a German Shepherd that barks like clockwork at 5 a.m. No need for an alarm to wake up.
“Customer service is key for businesses that want to survive and maintain a positive image.
Maybe bad actors change their ways. That can’t be bad for the industry or the customer/tenant,” Burke said.
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