A New Approach to Apartment Problems

It wasn’t a big problem that inspired me to create RenterPeace.

It was a literal drip, drip, drip.

This is what I’m scared is happening to the roof

I laid in bed and stared at the ceiling for a minute. I noticed the familiar dark spots in the ceiling. If it rains heavily enough, there’s a little drip from the ceiling next to my bed – maybe just one drop every few minutes from the edge of the dark spot. The scary part is that this only drips if it rains heavily enough. The ceiling slightly bulges down near where the drip is so I’m certain there a little pool of water collecting above my head, and the drips occur only when the pool of water is overflowing. The dripping sound was drowned out by the noise of the neighbors that night. The neighbors were louder, but it’s easier to fall asleep to their noise than to listen to that concerning drip, drip, drip in my room.

Yes, I told my landlord several times. I also tell him about the pests, the broken tiles in the kitchen, the other problems we have. I lose track of when I told him about which problem, and it seems like he’s just losing track himself. I’m not sure he gets which problems are severe and which ones aren’t. I’m busy and travel frequently, and just hope to see things fixed whenever I get home.

He’s a nice, kind man that lives in the English basement downstairs. He’s lived here a long time, and rents out the upstairs of this house to us. It seems like he’s trying to make the most of a quickly gentrifying neighborhood. I have to imagine that if he could afford it, he would use this entire rowhouse instead of living in the small basement below with his family. Did I mention the rent is mind-numbingly cheap? So cheap that I’m willing to play a waiting game with that roof and other problems.

I don’t think the landlord realizes how big some of these problems are.

I was sure that “there’s an app for this”. But there isn’t. Solutions were either too extreme (I’m not in a dire situation that requires a legal clinic) or not helpful enough (there’s legal information scattered around the web, but it’s tough to pin down practical advice). I don’t want to go to court. I don’t want more conflict. I don’t want to bug my landlord. I just want these problems fixed, and I don’t want to waste hours calling and texting.

That night was the inspiration for RenterPeace.

While researching solutions the next day, I discovered a much larger problem.

Economists would say there is “information asymmetry” in the rental world. Tenants hold the information that landlords need about the apartment. Tenants know best what needs to be fixed and how important it is. But busy and frustrated tenants can be poor communicators, leaving the landlord guessing about whether the tenant is overreacting or not. Both parties can be misinformed about the law and the lease, and often end up debating about needs to fixed, speaking past each other. Managing the problems in the apartment is a mess for landlords, and they want help. Tenants need informed, professional landlords and benefit greatly from helping them. Neither party wants to fight or bother the other one. Both tenants and landlords want the renting experience to be streamlined, automated, and most of all, peaceful.

An elegant solution to a prevalent problem.

I quit my job shortly after that night to work on RenterPeace and solve this problem. It’s a challenging app idea – it requires legal research, separate websites for landlords and tenants, and a very high level of data integrity (the data we track may be used in landlord-tenant court). Luckily, we have the skills necessary to pull this off. We are currently building out this system from scratch, looking for partners and supporters. Let us know what you think.

Shaq Katikala