With the extensive amount of hoops that renters must jump through to rent an apartment or property, it’s surprising that there is little done to screen landlords. Wouldn’t it be helpful (and money saving) for renters to have access to a “landlord blacklist”— the property owners who are essentially slumlords, do not keep up the residence or the like? Borrowers, renters, and businesses have to show “report cards” in the real estate industry, so why do we let landlords be exempt from any checks?
The Story With Landlords
As you probably already know, renting a home today is an incredibly tedious process. The application process to rent can be almost as intensive as getting the bank loan. Whether dealing with a newbie owner or a large corporation that manages national real estate portfolios, the application process is a lengthy and time-consuming ordeal. A renter can be subjected to application fees, credit checks, background searches, income disclosure requests, and calls to references.
A Tenant’s Risk
It’s ironic that, in most cases, a landlord’s risk is usually a few months’ rent or any insurance deductibles that are incurred, but consider what a tenant could lose— life savings, household, and family. You could argue that a tenant should be doing even MORE due diligence than the landlord does, researching to see if the owner is current on financing payments, property taxes, and utilities. Are there any liens on the property, and if so, what are they? What is their reputation as a manager? Do they have good customer service? This information is invaluable to a future tenant.
What To Do
There are some resources available online to see reviews of landlords. Google searches are always a great start. It’s possible that a renter can pull up public records or liens. The number of documents that can be found will often depend on the local county. The Better Business Bureau keeps information for corporate landlords (although the accuracy of the info gathered here has fallen under debate). If you are renting an apartment, ask other parties who live at the residence for feedback on the landlord. Somewhat surprisingly, Yelp and other online review sites may yield information regarding apartment buildings or insight about property management companies.
For those in 'The Big Apple,' RentLogic is a website that rates New York City Landlords. This site grades landlords on a scale of A to F, includes information on ownership, emergency calls, plumbing difficulties, heat or water problems, and more. The failing landlords in the system have significantly fought the existence of this service.
Regardless of what county or city you live in, as a renter, it’s important for you to take your time to research the building, management company, and your potential landlord. Taking more time, in the beginning, will save you more time and headaches in the end.