We’ve all experienced it: The broken heater. The leaky tub. The neighbor playing his dubstep-polka records at top volume until 4 a.m. The apartment problem that isn’t an emergency, but drives you bonkers because no matter what you do, you can’t seem to get it fixed. And since no one wants to seem whiney, we don’t even realize just how common it is for tenants to try to get minor issues fixed, only to find it impossible.
What’s going on here?
It all boils down to incentive. There’s just no motivation for landlords to fix minor problems. It almost always costs you more time and money to hold a neglectful landlord’s feet the fire than just to fix the problem yourself. And landlords know it.
Maybe your landlord responds right away and takes great care of the property. But even if that’s the case, they’re probably not rewarded for their reliability. You’ve just gotten incredibly lucky.
So let’s say you have an apartment problem. How might you go about getting it fixed?
“I’ll take them to court!”
Say the problem is severe. Something like bedbugs, flooding, or an infestation that’s hazardous to your health. Or, you’re worried about getting evicted. These are the sorts of cases that you might take to housing or small claims court – if you can afford it. But, what if you were to tell a judge about a smaller issue, like that squirrel who’s lived under the porch for so long, you and your roommates gave it a name and a life story? The judge might get more annoyed with you than you are with Squirrelly P. McFluffernutter. The DC housing conditions court recently stated:
The purpose of this court is not to manage landlord-tenant relationships. It’s to find housing code violations. We can’t have every tenant litigate every broken lightbulb.
Say you go to housing court and luck out, with a sympathetic judge who orders your landlord to fix your issue.
…after you research your options for hours, take time off work to go to court, and spend thousands of dollars on a lawyer. Oh, and good luck finding a lawyer to take your thousands of dollars. Most tenant lawyers work at non-profits and only take on the most severe cases.
Besides, if you want any hope of convincing the court, or even a mediator, you need a paper trail to show you complained to the landlord. And the property management software that most landlords use is designed for landlords, not tenants. Getting ahold of the history of your complaints is not easy.
Court is a bust.
What are the other options?
“I’ll ask the property manager!”
To get things done as cheaply and efficiently as possible, the landlord might hire a property manager or super to deal with everyday repairs. Then, maybe the property manager hires maintenance staff. With each new person hired, the goal is to save money. That’s how you might end up spending every afternoon on the phone for two weeks, only to be met with a “handyman” whose tool belt looks suspiciously like it was purchased at Fisher Price.
“I’ll blast them on Yelp!”
Trashing a neglectful landlord on Yelp, or other review sites, might make you feel better in the same way that it feels like you’re making him sweat to get by waiting 13 minutes to text back. (Am I right, folks? …Folks?)
But, apartment hunters barely ever check reviews, anyway. Plus, review sites are ripe for fraud. It’s way too easy for landlords to create fake accounts and flood the page with glowing reviews from “tenants.” That means there’s effectively no central platform to track bad behavior, like discrimination or property neglect. Bad landlords aren’t held accountable, and good landlords get diddly squat for their outstanding business practices.
There are a couple takeaways here:
- While major problems might get fixed if you hold landlords accountable in court, there’s no such mechanism for smaller, everyday problems. Nobody wants conflict in the first place.
- Tenants often don’t even have a platform to systematically send complaints their landlords. Without knowing about the problems or an ability to keep track of them, it’s impossible to fix apartment issues.
It’s no wonder almost every small problem is left unaddressed. But, now, there’s a tool for tenants that patches these gaps in the system. And it’s free.
RenterPeace is a new app designed with one principle in mind: Property management should belong to tenants, not landlords. Tenants should have access to the records of their notifications to landlords, with a guarantee that those records haven’t been tampered with. RenterPeace gives tenants an intuitive platform to notify landlords of everyday problems with simple, secure recordkeeping.
RenterPeace is all about opening lines of communication – even about those annoying, minor apartment issues that drive you bonkers because you just can’t get them fixed. Snap a picture or write a description, and we’ll notify them. With smart notifications, we make sure your landlord isn’t overwhelmed and sees the most important issues first. We help landlords with legal compliance by showing them the laws relevant to the issues you flagged. That way, they know what needs to be fixed and you aren’t escalating the situation by quoting the law. We even help find government grants that help the landlord pay for the repairs you want.
The relationship between landlords and tenants doesn’t have to be confrontational and awful. We can make it worth it for the landlord to do a great job, by making it as easy as possible for them. RenterPeace is the tool. Now, you just have to use it.