Landlording & Rental Properties

Should There Be a Better Review System in Place for Landlords?

Expertise: Commercial Real Estate, Personal Finance, Real Estate Marketing, Business Management, Landlording & Rental Properties, Real Estate Investing Basics, Personal Development, Real Estate News & Commentary, Mortgages & Creative Financing
224 Articles Written
landlord-reviews

Should there be a “landlord blacklist”? Shouldn’t renters and other parties in the real estate industry have access to landlord report cards, just as much as they are available on borrowers, renters, and businesses?

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Renting a home is an incredibly tedious process today. Whether you’re working with newbie landlords or big hedge funds managing national portfolios of properties, the application process to rent can be almost as excruciating as getting a bank loan to buy the home. There may be application fees, credit checks, background checks, disclosure of revealing income information, and calls to references and previous landlords. On the other hand, little is often done to vet and screen landlords.

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Related: 6 Tips for Gracefully Responding to Bad Reviews as a Property Manager

What Does a Tenant Have to Lose?

Some might find this a little ironic given that in most cases, a landlord’s exposure is normally a couple months’ rent or any insurance deductible they may have. Conversely, a tenant often has their life savings, entire household, and family on the line.

You might argue that a tenant ought to be doing even more due diligence on the landlord. The tenant should know if their prospective landlord is up-to-date on their financing payments, if their books are balanced, if property taxes and utilities are paid on time, what judgements they may have against them, and what their reputation is for property management and customer service. This data would also be useful for lenders, future buyers of the property, vendors and contractors, and investors supporting them, as well as local government.

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Related: Should Landlords Run Background Checks on Prospective Tenants?

Review Resources

There are actually some (but not very many) resources online to find landlord reviews out there. A quick Google search may be a good start. This may include pulling up public records of liens, etc. depending on how much the local county puts online. There is also the Better Business Bureau for corporate landlords, though the accuracy of this information is frequently debated. Yelp and other online review sites may work for looking up apartment buildings and property management companies.

The New York Times recently picked up on this dilemma and highlighted a new service, RentLogic, which rates NYC landlords and buildings. The site grades them on a scale from A to F and includes data on ownership, emergency calls, plumbing issues, heat and hot water problems, and more. Of course, there has been significant pushback by landlords who haven’t appreciated their ratings.

What do you think? Do you wish there was a better way to distinguish yourself as a good landlord versus the others? Are you a tenant who has done some of this vetting for yourself before? Are you an investor who sees value in knowing a property or seller’s reputation in the search and acquisition process?

Let’s talk in the comments section below!

With just under a decade of experience in the real estate industry, Sterling currently manages over $10MM in capital, which is deployed across a $26MM real estate portfolio made up of multifamily apartments and single-family homes. Through the company he co-founded, Holdfolio, he owns just under 400 units. Sterling was featured on the BiggerPockets Podcast and has been contributing content to BiggerPockets since 2014, with over 200 posts on topics ranging from single-family investing and apartment investing to wholesaling and scaling a business.

    Susan Maneck Investor from Jackson, Mississippi
    Replied over 2 years ago
    In my experience tenants already vet their landlords, though generally it is by word-of-mouth. Only rarely to I advertise my properties. Prospective tenants call me out of the blue saying, “I hear you have nice houses” or “I hear you always fix things.” If you do right by your tenants, word gets around.
    Sterling White Rental Property Investor from Indianapolis, IN
    Replied over 2 years ago
    I completely agree.
    Chris
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Horrible idea. The bums you evict will just rate you poorly.
    Sterling White Rental Property Investor from Indianapolis, IN
    Replied over 2 years ago
    I do agree that evicted tenants will leave bad reviews, but I also believe if you provide a great service as a landlord those reviews(left by satisfied tenants) will outweigh the bad ones.
    Alden Simpson Wholesaler from Greenville, South Carolina
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Thats very true, just like any other business the customer has the right to write a review on a service or a product. The information is very useful for future customers. There will always be negative reviews with the good.i don’t know about most people but when i search for a product I read all the reviews and make my decision based on a whole. And if the landlord is truly a goo landlord, the positive reviews will outweigh the bad. Also you can usually tell when someone is just ranting and giving a horrible review out of spite.
    Deanna Opgenort Rental Property Investor from San Diego, CA
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Surely you have more happy tenants than evicted ones? We’ve all seen review sites where there are 100 five star reviews, and one malcontent, but if most of the reviews you are getting as a landlord are negative wouldn’t that be valuable info? Either you are renting to low class tenants, or you might need to do a bit of self-examination. Also any decent review service should allow for replies; (“Mr. Landlord is a blood-sucking @#@#$#, and the apartment is full of cockroaches” “Unfortunately we found it necessary to ask Mr. Tenant to leave due to his non-payment of rent. After Mr. Tenant left we removed 18 bags of garbage from his apartment, which might indeed have attracted cockroaches”.)
    Mary Ann Aulbur Investor from Springfield, Missouri
    Replied over 2 years ago
    It would not be bad idea if the landlord was allowed a rebuttal. Also, if the tenant provided a name it could be verified that it was a real person and not an internet troll. This could be a good tool to rate property management companies too. I wonder if any lawsuits would result from such postings.
    Sterling White Rental Property Investor from Indianapolis, IN
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Excellent suggestion, Mary.
    Chris
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Probably the tenants free legal aid attorney would go after any rebuttal!
    Sterling White Rental Property Investor from Indianapolis, IN
    Replied over 2 years ago
    This is a possibility.
    Account Closed from Baltimore, Maryland
    Replied over 2 years ago
    1) This exists – apartment ratings (.com) and the host of other sites trying to be it. 2) It’s a mixed bag. Chris is correct that angry tenants will take to the internet to air their grievances and omit any information showing themselves in a poor light (failure to pay rent, housekeeping problems, etc.). Aggrieved tenants often post multiple negative reviews, and the sites refuse to remove any content. Deanna is correct that there are far more “happy tenants than evicted ones” however happy tenants don’t get home in the evening and think “you know what? I love my landlord so much I’ll take ten minutes and go post a review of how great they are.” Without a mechanism to prompt them, very few happy tenants will leave feedback. To Mary Ann’s point, there is the option for the manager to reply as the manager. However, the property manager must pay the site for that privilege. Ratings and reviews sites are parasites. They love to create a problem, then offer the manager a half-solution for a fee.
    Alden Simpson Wholesaler from Greenville, South Carolina
    Replied over 2 years ago
    I think this would be a great tool for serious renters to find a good landlord, especially people who are great tenants and don’t want to hassle with a horrible landlord. Back in college we had a website that the students could look up a professor and get a review on his teaching and grading style. I never enrolled in a class before checking out the professor. Why not have this option for a tenant commitments that are usually at a minimum of a year contact.