Ever rent an apartment and wish you had known what to expect before you signed a lease? Wouldn't it be great if you could read reviews ala Amazaon or Yelp from former tenants? Maybe a handy rating system? What about a handy phone app? Unfortunately renting an apartment is one of those things that is still a little behind the technology curve. Generally speaking most renters either stay put because they like their landlord and/or apartment and moving is a hassle, or they move on because of other life events like relocation or buying a home of their own. But what about avoiding those landlords-from-hell?
Mike Cerny knows the challenges renters face, from finding an apartment that actually matches the online posting to getting the real story on a management company.
“We’re trying to give renters as much access to information as possible so they can make an informed and confident decision about whether they should rent or tour an apartment,” said Cerny, who has a background in commercial real estate. The idea came to the Chicago native when he was finally fed up with his college neighbors below him.
“They were smoking weed that came into our unit and throwing parties every weekend until 3 a.m. while my wife was pregnant,” Cerny said. “We also had a really bad management company that didn’t exterminate the cockroaches in our apartment. We had things break (faucet, dishwasher, dryer, cabinet doors), which they chose to repair versus replace and they would continue to break. It was at that moment I realized there needed to be a way to avoid all this.”
In the fall of 2012, Cerny decided to do something about it–he launched DoNotRent.com. DoNotRent.com is a national apartment review and ratings website where renters can provide honest feedback, good and bad, on apartments they’ve rented or toured. DoNotrent.com encourages renters to write reviews of apartments they toured. They are also customizing their mobile site to make it easier for users to search and write reviews of apartments they rented or toured from their smartphones.
They can upload photos and rate buildings on a scale of 1-5 on parking, noise, grounds, safety, laundry, and management. These reviews help others reviewers make an informed decision about where they should rent.
The new social networking website is built on a user-friendly platform. People are able to login through Facebook and post and share reviews on several social media networks, ask a previous reviewer questions, search for apartment buildings in their area and check their availability. All reviews are posted anonymously to protect renters.
“I started DoNotRent.com with a focus on having the best user-friendly experience with social sharing,” Cerny said. “Although I had a bad experience renting, DoNotRent.com is a neutral site where users can write good and bad reviews. In order for renters to have the most current information about a rental, we want landlords to respond to reviews. If an issue was fixed, repaired or if they made an improvement to the property, renters need to know.”
The site is targeted towards 18 to 35-year-old renters or prospective renters, and the site has been tailored for them. The site is developing a plan to provide an incentive platform, which will allow users to earn points for writing reviews, adding photos, referring friends and sharing reviews on their social sites. The points will be redeemable for gift cards
to national retail stores.
Property managers and landlords can add their listings for a small fee in order to add a link to their website, update the property description section, receive inquiries from renters and respond to reviews. They will pay $40 per year for each listing (with discounts for multiple listings) for perks like the ability to respond to reviews, write custom descriptions, and add a link on the listing to their website. Each listing shows how many unique visitors have viewed it. During the next year, the company plans on compiling and publishing rental data along with user review trends.
“We are excited about our future and we are open to talks with investors and potential partnership opportunities,” Cerny said.
By the way, this Chicago start-up is looking for investors in order to compete in the niche apartment review market and take the business to the next level. For more
information, visit www.donotrent.com.