RenterPeace Smart Search

We’ve added a search bar to RenterPeace’s homepage and the app, combined with intelligent recommendations. The comprehensive list of household tools offered by the search functionality makes RenterPeace the most productive smart assistant out there. We’ve also made everyone’s favorite feature (getting legal information) more accessible – you no longer need to log in and there’s better navigation.

Search Functionality

We shifted the central design of RenterPeace from a to-do list to a search bar. It now works similar to Google Search, except instead of showing you websites, we show you action items to help solve your question or problem. We believe this is how smart assistants should be – focused on productivity rather than trivia questions. Type “Do Laundry” to get a suggestion to add Laundry to your todo list. The best part is that it searches both your existing items (like your bills and to-dos) and offers to add them if they aren’t tracked already. This new design is a huge hit – our users love how even more intuitive RenterPeace has become.

Recommendations

How do you get started with RenterPeace? Now, we show you! We offer smart suggestions, tailored your to-dos, your activities, and even your jurisdiction. These recommendations guide you through the large number of features RenterPeace offers, helping you stay productive without first having to learn all the features we offer.

No-Login Previews

Everyone hates creating accounts just to try something out. After some testing, we found this is especially true with our legal help features, where renters just want some basic legal information. To make our app more usable before you log in, we built the ability to guess your location and jurisdiction to figure out applicable laws for you. We also redesigned nearly every part of the app to only ask you to log in at the moment it’s absolutely needed. For example, we need you to make an account so we can save your todo list items securely. Now, you can more easily get what you need from RenterPeace even faster.

Better Navigation of Legal Information

As our legal information became more informative and comprehensive, it also became more overwhelming. Our users requested that the legal information be organized with a table of contents. We now generate a table of contents for each law that instantly auto-updates as we make changes and edits. We also simplified the legal guide for tenants with less text and more actions, some of which are tailored to the jurisdiction. RenterPeace is now that much easier to use.

 

International Support and Gdpr

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:

  • Updated our terms and privacy policy
  • 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
  • and more

We’ve always been extremely proud of our privacy practices and level of security. Please visit our privacy policy for more information. No really, it includes specific examples in layman terms of how we protect your data and stories of how these protections have helped or will help protect your privacy. If you have any questions, please reach us at privacy@renterpeace.com.

The RenterPeace Smart Assistant

We’re very excited to announce this update. RenterPeace now includes a smart assistant that makes home management as easy as a Google search.

Smart Assistant

What is the RenterPeace Smart Assistant?

Version 1.2 of RenterPeace (available on all platforms now) offers a simple, intuitive way to navigate all the app’s features. The interface is now centered around a single search bar, where you can type any problem, question, or task that you want to get done. That’s right – type in nearly anything related to the home. The smart assistant intelligently determines the best tool to solve that issue, and gives you shortcuts to the appropriate feature.

How does it work?

Just sign in and type. Here are some examples:

What you ask What it suggests
“Can my landlord raise the rent?” Legal info about raising the rent and a forum to discuss
“My neighbors are so freakin loud and annoying” Legal info about loud neighbors and options to deal with it
“Laundry” Add laundry to your to-do list
“My roommate is not doing the dishes” Add dishes to the house to-do list, where it can auto-assign the task
“We’re out of milk again” Add milk to your shopping list with the option to repeat
“Kitty litter” Add it to your shopping list
“Remind my roommate to feed to the cat” Either 1) Add it to your to-do list or 2) chat with your roommate
“$30 for pizza” Split the cost of a pizza with your roommates
“Electric bill” Track your electric bill (with the option to share the cost with roommates)
“I want to talk to other tenants” Talk to your tenant association
“Options” View our settings page

But how smart is it? Can I ask it…

We’ve tested it with thousands of common questions from loud neighbors to roommate questions, and it held up well. In fact, we were quite surprised ourselves with how well it handled oddly phrased questions and obscure phrases, allowing us to release this much earlier than we originally planned. And the best part is that it learns and adjusts based on your activity in RenterPeace.  Take the RenterPeace Challenge and see if you can stump RenterPeace when asking it to help solve your problem at home.

Comparison to Google Assistant, Alexa, and Siri

If you want to fix a leaky roof, track your water bill and split it with your roommate, or set a schedule to do laundry every week, RenterPeace the best option. If you want to know the weather or how old Obama is, you can ask Google, Alexa, or Siri. RenterPeace is a different category of smart assistant, focused more on getting stuff done around the house and answering questions that impact your life, rather than answering trivia questions.

Additionally, RenterPeace does not offer a voice feature – it’s currently based solely on written input. It’s still as simple as doing a Google search, but instead of presenting you with information, it presents you with options to fix the problem.

Today Screen and App Notifications

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.

App Notifications

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.

Roommate Chat

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.

Report Problems

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.

What’s Next?

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.

 

 

RenterPeace on Android and iOS

Starting today, RenterPeace is available on the Play Store and soon it will be available on the App Store. The mobile app versions include every feature from the web version. You can now manage your chores, track issues, set your shopping list, and chat straight from your phone. Best of all, the mobile versions will include app notifications for reminders and instantly sync across devices so you can switch from your laptop to your phone, without watching an annoying loading symbol. You’ll just need to be connected to the internet for the app to work.Download RenterPeace on iOS

Being a tap away from your home screen makes RenterPeace even more convenient. Plus, you’ll be able to upload pictures more easily from your phone’s camera and gallery and get app notifications. Click above to download!

 

 

Chores, Shopping, and Expenses

RenterPeace is now a more integral part of a busy renter’s life through a full-featured home manager.

We’ve listened to our users and are bringing a major upgrade, RenterPeace 1.0. This upgrade adds chore tracking, shopping lists, expense tracking, a sleeker web interface, and more. These features make RenterPeace more convenient and better suited to handle the variety of problems that come largely from having roommates.

This upgrade doesn’t remove existing features. RenterPeace is still the app you love as the best solution to landlord-tenant problems with documentation, notification, and targeted legal information. All users on all platforms will automatically be upgraded to RenterPeace Squirrel in coming weeks. We thank you for your support and welcome your feedback. See below for a detailed changelog.

1.0

New features and improvements

  • Chore tracking. Includes auto-assignment to roommates, an option to track personal errands, and easy repeat setting.
  • Split roommate expenses. Includes visualization, option to set repeating expenses, and easy reconciliation.
  • Track utilities. Includes comparison of prices from month-to-month, with easy roommate splitting and reconciliation.
  • Landlords can view details of each apartment and sort by number of issues, number of tenants, and rent
  • Landlords can now invite tenants
  • Email unsubscribe functionality

Improvements

  • Radically improved UI with dark background, rounded buttons, less neon-y colors
  • Improved mobile UX, with faster access to features in the menu bar
  • Tenants can now view issues from their old apartments, found in the settings
  • Issues list is clearer and better aligned
  • Admin can track and estimate costs of integrations
  • Improved colors in emails
  • Blockchain validations run asyncronously for faster page loads
  • Faster uploads with background processing and software dependency upgrades
  • Numerous bug fixes

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

CEO