Living with roommates can be a great way to get the housing quality and location you want for the price you can afford – plus, it can be fun to have friends right in your living room when you get home! But cohabitation comes with its own set of challenges, too. The one we hear about most often? Roommates who never do the dishes. Or mop the floor, or clean the bathroom, or do any of the regular maintenance that makes living space livable.
Deciding Who Does What
Even if nagging worked (which it usually doesn’t), communication is one of the biggest hurdles while you and your roommates balance all the other stresses of work, school, or social obligations. So, how do you deal with a messy roommate without becoming the unofficial mom of your apartment? The trick is to set up a system that continuously schedules and delegates chores for you. No need to argue about who needs to do it! That’s where RenterPeace comes in.
Setting a Schedule
Our To-Do List feature is your own communal, digital chore chart. When you add a household task that repeats periodically, it just takes two taps to share the responsibility with your roommates and set the app to auto-assign it however often it needs to get done. From that moment on, you never have to remind your roommate to do a chore again. And you won’t forget when it’s your turn. We’ll notify each of you whenever it’s your responsibility to wash the dishes, clean out the litter box, wipe down the stove, or whatever chore that never seems to get done.
Getting and Giving Credit
Most messiness starts with an honest intention to contribute but forgetfulness comes in the way. Renterpeace makes it easy to nudge your roommate without being passive-aggressive. Whenever someone completes a shared chore, the roommates are notified with a message, such as, “Sarah completed the dishes.” It’s a neutral message that’s obviously autogenerated – this avoids the awkwardness of complaining how much work you do. The roommate gets a sense of how much you contribute, encouraging them to pitch in as well. They know you’ll get notified, encouraging them to do pick up stuff around the house even no one’s watching. These gentle nudges are a subtle trick that really works.
Version 1.2 of RenterPeace enables users from around the world to join RenterPeace.
Why are you opening RenterPeace internationally?
RenterPeace would previously block users outside the US. However, potential users complained and asked why they couldn’t use some of the features of RenterPeace since only one main feature was US-specific – legal information. For example, locality doesn’t matter much when our users track their todos in the app. Still, making RenterPeace work internationally required more behind-the-scenes work to get right (e.g., getting timestamps correctly to work outside of the US can be complicated and difficult to test). But, we listened to our users and built some initial support for international users.
What productivity and financial features do you offer non-US users?
Good news! All productivity and financial features are available internationally. We modified our code to intelligently detect international time zones and currencies based on country, making reminders and expense tracking possible. We also allow all users (US and non-US) to change their timezone and currency in the settings page. For now, the currency only affects the symbols appearing in front of transactions (e.g., $ vs. £)
What legal features do you have for non-US users?
We worked hard to make as much of the app functional for non-US users, especially with our legal tools. Users anywhere can track issues, post in a forum with others in their region who have similar problems, notify their landlords, and more. We do not yet have any legal information or research for non-US countries, so in the meantime, users can rely on the forum with other local users. In addition, the method to report problems is very country-specific, so we had to disable that functionality as well. As we add more legal features, some of them may not be compatible internationally.
What languages do you support?
Unfortunately, we currently only offer support for English. We are hoping to add more languages soon, starting with Spanish.
What about GDPR?
One important change to opening up internationally was working to become fully compliant with the General Data Protection Regulation (and equivalent laws). We’ve:
Reviewed our third parties and vendors, ensuring we have data processing agreements and they have strong security
Decided to voluntarily maintain GDPR Article 30 style documentation
Submitted a self-certification with Privacy Shield
Redesigned certain features for more explicit consent
Prepared to comply with data subject requests
RenterPeace is loaded with features, from chores to issue tracking to chat. Version 1.1 of RenterPeace centers around unifying all these features and making the app easier to use. To get the updates below, make sure to download the latest app version from the Play Store (Android) or App Store (iOS). App notifications won’t be activated until you open and use the app one more time. UPDATE: iOS users should make sure they are using version 1.1.1 or higher, which contains a bug fix to app notifications.
The Today List
Previously, RenterPeace users had to visit different sections of the app for each feature. One could check their chore list, and then their bills, and then their shopping lists, and so on. But it’s never on one page. With so many features, this made it difficult to intuitively know the top thing that needs to be done when a renter gets home. Similarly, landlords had to independently check their messages and their issues, not clearly knowing what needs to be taken care of first.
We fixed this with a new “Today” list, a centralized list that shows a renter all their action items and automatically orders by importance. In one list, you can now see your chores, bills, issues, shopping lists, and chat. The new interface has already received positive feedback, making the app much faster and easier to navigate. It syncs seamlessly with each item, taking into account updates and changes to an item, the urgency of due dates, and the severity of issues. We do all the thinking for you, so you can just open the app and instantly see the top 5 things you need to do today.
We didn’t forget landlords either. Their Today list displays urgent action items, ranked by order of urgency and importance.
We received requests for app notifications so that users can stay updated on changes. In particular, users requested that we send app notifications when a roommate completes a chore or pays a bill.
We now deliver app notifications on Android and iOS. Once you have the newest app version, just log in and use the app. We’ll be able to link your device to your account. There are two types of notifications you’ll receive:
Updates – Get notified when your roommate completes a chore, pays a bill, or adds something to a shopping list. You’ll also get notifications when there’s a new chat message. We do our best to merge similar app notifications into one so that you’re not overwhelmed. For example, if a roommate completes five chores at once, then you’ll just receive a single notification saying you have numerous updates to your chores.
Daily app notification – We send a daily app notification to remind you of your day’s to-do list. It normally arrives around 5 pm every day, but you can adjust the time so that it notifies you when you’re best in a position to take care of chores, shopping, bills, and issues. You can also disable these daily reminders if they annoy you.
Note: App notifications are not automatically enabled for existing users when the app is updated. You’ll need to log into the app one more time so we can detect your device’s notification code.
We were concerned about some potential confusion regarding the functionality of our Apartment Chat feature. Our Apartment Chat is an automatically generated chatroom that includes your landlord and roommates, but that was not as clear as it could have been with the name, Apartment Chat. While we included explanations on the page and have not heard of any issues, our admin worried that the name “Apartment Chat” was still too ambiguous. If it’s not blatantly clear whether a landlord is included in a chat, then tenants may make mistakenly reveal something in the chat room – the risk was too great. For this reason, we split the Apartment Chat into two separate, clearly labeled chat rooms: Tenant Chat and Landlord Chat.
Landlord Chat has the same features as the Apartment Chat, but is more clearly labeled. It includes your landlord and also includes your tenants in the conversation.
Roommate Chat is a new feature. This is a chatroom with your roommates. While we prefer tenants to talk to their roommates in person, getting app notifications may help better capture your roommate’s attention and it sometimes helps to keep a log to easily reference important notes. For example, a roommate might leave a note that they’ll be out of town next month, with instructions on how to take care of the cat while they’re gone. To easily reference this later, it’s more convenient to have this information in the RenterPeace chat (where chats are organized by topic) than buried in group SMS or mentioned only verbally.
We now provide information to tenants on how to report problems. For now, this information is generic across all US regions (call 311) along with information about whether to risk calling authorities or not. We believe this will only be used for severe cases where authorities should be involved since we place a clear warning that there are practical consequences to calling authorities and destroying a landlord-tenant relationship.
Improvements and Bug Fixes:
Improved look of emails – We’ve drastically improved the look and experience of the emails we send out. It’s now easier to read and better organized, matching the feel of the new Today section.
Improved look of “Add New” button – We’ve made it much easier and intuitive to use our Add New button, which gives users centralized access to the majority of our features. Replacing a small drop-down box with large icons streamlines the use of RenterPeace.
Finances Section for Landlords – Landlords can more easily navigate to our financial features. Namely, they can more easily access our list of grants and awards for landlords, as well as view the list of their apartments.
Numerous bug fixes – We fixed some bugs. For example, some renters were not receiving an apartment score if they didn’t add their landlord. Some users without roommates had received errors when clicking on certain button to add new links. Some users experienced errors when attempting to add a new landlord. Links opened within the app, which was buggy and difficult on iOS devices where there was no back button. We now open links in your default browser.
More simultaneous roommate invites – RenterPeace has always and continues to accommodate apartments as large as needed. However, to prevent fraudulent users inviting hundreds of people, spamming them with random emails, we limited each renter to 2 invites at a time. Those two roommates can each invite 2 more people, eventually enabling any number of roommates in an apartment. Alternatively, after 2 weeks, we allow a person to invite 2 additional roommates. However, we received complaints this system is too restrictive and confusing, and we should allow each user to invite more roommates. We listened and opened it up to 4 roommate invites per person at a time. This allows most users to invite all their roommates at once. Large group homes will need to get their roommates to invite more roommates.
More stability and fewer errors – We added more features for our admin to proactively detect bugs and issues.
It’s up to you! The app includes a feedback link in the menu, where you can easily let us know what our next feature should be, or anything that needs improvement.