It was a dispute over a lacking mattress cowl that sparked the thought for Marks Out Of Tenancy – an internet site that enables renters to charge their previous landlords.
Founder Ben Yarrow was shifting out of his flat when he acquired an electronic mail saying: “I’ll be glad to see the back of you.”
He had complained after his then girlfriend was pressured to throw away lots of of kilos value of garments that went mouldy due to a poorly-ventilated built-in wardrobe.
So the couple felt greater than somewhat aggrieved when their landlord started quibbling over a lacking £Three mattress cowl.
It was then that Ben tried to discover a web site the place he may depart a overview for his landlord.
While there have been websites the place individuals may complain about dangerous landlords, Ben felt there wasn’t something on supply that supplied constructive suggestions and helpful info for tenants.
For that purpose, he says his web site is as a lot about selling good landlords and letting brokers as highlighting dangerous apply.
The overview can also be damaged down into sections, permitting renters to charge their landlord, letting agent, property and neighbourhood to focus on the optimistic and unfavorable points of their tenancy.
Reviewers can depart a ranking out of ten in addition to a touch upon areas together with worth for cash, high quality of repairs and communication from the owner and letting agent.
The main goal, Ben says, is to assist tenants make better-informed choices.
“It’s not that renting is difficult – we just don’t have access to the right information,” he provides.
Ben admits he has confronted a backlash from some landlords, who concern they could possibly be given an unfair overview – however the thought has proved widespread with renters.
Anna-Ruth Cockerham, a 19-year-old scholar on the University of St Andrews, determined to make use of Marks Out Of Tenancy after going through a bunch of issues with her landlord within the second 12 months of her research.
The home was “freezing cold” and had rats when she moved in, whereas she says the owner was sluggish to take care of repairs.
“He just told us to tidy up and the rats would go away”, she says, including that the owner solely handled the problem when neighbours reported it to the council.
The heating issues had been significantly troublesome, Anna-Ruth says, as a result of she suffers from joint ache attributable to a neurological situation, which is made worse by excessive temperatures.
Being capable of learn a overview of the home earlier than signing the contract would have been invaluable, she says.
“If I had known in advance the house was freezing cold all the time I would not have chosen to live there,” Anna-Ruth provides.
She later found the identical points had been reported by earlier tenants however the landlord had failed to handle them.
“The main problem is you never speak to the previous tenants so the landlords can do the same thing year after year but no-one ever picks up on it,” she says.
“When you rent a house, you often only see it once and you’re told you have to sign the papers within a couple of days or someone else will take it. So it can be difficult to find out what the landlord is like.”
It was this that motivated her to depart a overview of her landlord on-line – to verify potential tenants had entry to this info.
The assistant chief government of scholar housing charity Unipol, Nicola Brown, says evaluations are significantly useful for younger individuals, who’ve much less renting expertise and will not know what is appropriate apply.
The charity launched Rate Your Landlord, a overview web site for college kids in Leeds, in partnership with Leeds University Union in 2016.
Like Marks Out Of Tenancy, the positioning is not only about exposing dangerous apply – it additionally holds an annual awards ceremony to focus on good landlords.
“This site doesn’t have value as a ‘hate your landlord’ website,” Nicola says. “It has value in being something where people can be signposted towards the best landlords as well as seeing which are the worst.”
Nevertheless, overview websites have nonetheless provoked concern from some landlords.
David Smith, coverage director for the Residential Landlords Association, warns “there is no real guarantee of who is posting, or whether their experiences are genuine”.
Owen O’Neill, a landlord in Birmingham, can also be cautious concerning the danger of faux evaluations.
“In principle I’ve got no problem with it,” he says. “It’s good to get customer feedback.”
But he says landlords have to be notified about any overview to allow them to reply – they usually must be certain the reviewer was really a tenant.
Ben stresses that Marks Out Of Tenancy encourages landlords and letting brokers to answer to evaluations, that are moderated for doubtlessly defamatory content material and to verify the tenant lived within the property.
Rate Your Landlord additionally verifies and moderates evaluations earlier than giving landlords the prospect to reply forward of publication.
Nicola says some landlords now recognise the positioning as a helpful advertising instrument.
Sue Michaels, a scholar landlord in Leeds, says she is commonly contacted by potential tenants who’ve discovered her on Rate Your Landlord. She additionally feels the positioning is vital for pushing up requirements throughout the sector.
“How can we improve things unless the bad landlords and agents are highlighted?” she provides.
One of the constraints of web sites like Marks Out Of Tenancy is the variety of evaluations out there – it has had 850 because it started in 2017.
However, with comparable websites popping up throughout the UK, the demand for such info seems to be rising. Rate Your Landlord at present has greater than 3,600 evaluations in Leeds and a goal of 1,000 new evaluations yearly.
Ben additionally desires to see his web site develop.
“More people need to know about this if we are going to take any steps to making renting better,” he says.