New website that allows tenants to rate landlords records hundreds of reviews
Two Ontario residents have created a website that allows tenants to anonymously rate their landlords.
The Rate The Landlord website has grown in popularity since its launch three weeks ago, and now has more than 1,500 reviews from tenants.
The two co-founders — who CBC News agreed not to name over concerns for their safety — said they decided to build the platform because while tenants have to provide a lot of personal information when leasing a property, there is a lack of transparency when it comes to landlords.
One co-founder said they moved to Toronto a number of years ago, adding that "it was my first time renting in the city and I was living with friends, and unfortunately we had a really rough rental experience.
"There was a lot of neglect, we ended up going without heat for two weeks, [it was] a constant struggle to get repairs done, get assistance, to feel like we were living in some place that was being cared for in any way," they said.
The co-founder added that at the time they thought they were just unlucky, but over the course of living in Toronto and talking to friends and other people in the community, "it became very clear that this wasn't really a one-off situation, that many people had experiences that caught them totally off guard, where their living situation was really poor, their quality of life was, you know, significantly affected by neglect from a landlord."
According to them, people would most likely not enter a contract with somebody who was so neglectful if they knew anything about their prior history and their relationship with their tenants.
"We kind of started to think about how when it comes to other businesses or other decisions that we make, we always kind of look ahead, check reviews, do our research, do our due diligence before making a purchase or doing anything like that. So, when it comes to something as critical as housing, it seemed odd, I guess, that it wasn't being subject to the same process," they said.
"You're paying a service provider for a service, but there is absolutely no transparency into that service providing aspect of things."
The co-founder said they didn't know how to build a website, so they made a call-out on Reddit, and the other co-founder — a web developer — was one of many people who responded.
The other co-founder said they "knew that there was a very big need for it because a lot of the time tenants don't have a choice in their landlord."
"It's sort of a take what you can get type of deal. There is a [Landlord and Tenant Board] but a lot of times there is a long wait to even get in front of them and sometimes the best case scenario is that you're able to break your lease early, which just means you have to find another landlord."
'Serious concerns' with website
Varun Sriskanda, a board member with Small Ownership Landlords of Ontario, said he became aware of the website about two weeks ago and he has "some serious concerns" with it.
"To begin, there's no requirement that any of the reviews or comments being posted be backed up with the finding of a court or tribunal," he said.
"If you're gonna be saying things about your landlord that they fail to maintain the property, those allegations need to be proven by a court or a competent jurisdiction. We cannot allow people to post things on a website knowing it's fake, knowing it's false, and knowing it could lead to the detriment of the landlord, it could lead to loss of income."
Sriskanda said he will be writing to the office of the information and privacy commissioner in the coming days to request an investigation into the website.
An important site for tenants
Geordie Dent, the executive director of the Federation of Metro Tenants' Association, says the website is an important one for tenants, adding that while there are a lot of review sites for a lot of other services, this is not the case for landlords.
"It's a really hard market for renters right now in the City of Toronto and throughout Canada really, so anytime that they can get a little bit of extra information about their landlord, maybe before they rent a place, it's really important for them," Dent told CBC News.
"Unfortunately, it's a war and tenants are losing right now. It's a really, really hard market. Tenants are often paying through the nose a lot of extra money for rent. It's really hard to find a place, and a lot of times when they get in, they find out that the place isn't very good or the landlord isn't very good."
Dent is urging anyone with a review of their landlord to leave it on the site "whether it's good or not."
"A lot of people know about the bad landlords but, you know, sometimes it's good to know the good landlords too. So again, if you have a good or bad experience, try to use these sites, help future tenants, help your neighbours figure out whether your landlord is good or not."
The founders said they were forced to take the site down for one week to address issues with site stability.
Within two days of relaunching the site had 60,000 unique visitors, they said.
The founders said reviews are being moderated and those that "cross the line or become too defamatory," are removed from the site.
"Anything that becomes too vulgar, too revealing, that could become harmful to the landlord or to the reviewers themselves we do edit or remove the review entirely."