The law ensures that landlords have options available to them when it comes to vetting prospective tenants: credit checks, reference checks, security deposits and so on. But what do the tenants have to protect themselves from shifty landlords?
While legislation may be enacted that will limit rent increases and protect tenants from unnecessary fees, many feel that the pendulum of power still swings too heavily to one side; and that there's not enough being done to stop rogue landlords, who exploit tenants while profiting from poorly maintained properties, from slipping through the net.
The revenge of generation rent
The question is: What can give tenants more power? Hannah Williams believes that social media is the answer, as it provides tenants with a platform where they can rate and review landlords, and read the reviews submitted by others.
Williams founded the website RentalRaters to fulfil exactly that purpose. Talking about the rationale for the site, Williams said, “We’re very used to doing it for small scale things like dining out, so it seems crazy to me that for something that is so fundamental – the place in which you live – you wouldn’t leave a review when you vacated that property for the benefit of other tenants.”
As Williams points out, social media has already revolutionised the hospitality industry, with TripAdvisor allowing customers to rate hotels, guest lodges, bars and restaurants. The service has certainly given owners and managers of hospitality-related establishments a wake-up call. Now every customer they serve is a hotel inspector, wielding enough power and influence to significantly harm (or help) their business.
Frustrated tenants, such as Hannah Williams, whose generation finds itself largely at the mercy of landlords and letting agents due to exorbitant property prices (hence the term 'generation rent'), are hoping social media can balance the scales. Landlords will have incentive to up their game, knowing that the tenants are watching them with a million eyes and one. Williams' website provides one social media outlet; other examples include Hackneyrenters.org, London Renters and the Edinburgh Tenants Private Action Group.
A powerful property marketing tool
Social media can also work for the benefit of landlords. As Williams puts it, “We’re absolutely not here to rubbish landlords – in fact, we think it’s really important that if you are a good landlord people know about you.”
Social media platforms such as Facebook can be used by landlords in two important ways:
- A source of information regarding their tenants and the properties currently being rented.
- A means of advertising.
Social media enables landlords to vet tenants just as it provides tenants the means to evaluate landlords. The positive feedback that good landlords receive from satisfied tenants is a form of free advertising which is more effective than what most forms of marketing could produce. Landlords need to pay more attention to social media, and not just the ways it can be used against them.
Image courtesy of No to the Quo