With the emergence of social media and Web 2.0, customers and users have new tools and services at their disposal to review rate and comment on anything they like. You can write up your visit to the local chippy on a service like Qype. You can review your plumber, talk about your current annoyance with any brand you fancy and generally slag off and critique whatever you like. On Twitter, people can rant and rave at brands and expect a reply. Online traders have been rated on eBay and Amazon for years. Even teachers get rated by their pupils (much to the chagrin of many in the profession).
So it’s quite surprising that private landlords haven’t yet had the same scrutiny using the best of the web’s technology. There are a few small sites out there, but nothing has got any cut-through. Traditional lettings agents often get the usual trouncing on review sites, but individual landlords haven’t felt the wrath of the crowd yet. That’s why we were interested in an experiment from New York that maps the Big Apple’s worst landlords.
But this is different from the crowd reviewing landlords. It’s actually an official attempt to name and shame the worst landlord offenders from the Public Advocate that aims “to identify, track, and hold accountable New York City’s most irresponsible landlords.”
Using official public records held by the authorities and by calling on residents to offer new information, the map provides information of negligent landlords that have allowed issues to persist for years. By mashing that information up with Google Maps, they’ve provided a vivid, visual record of homes and landlords to avoid.
Could it happen here? It would be more difficult based on the lack of publicly held information on private landlords. But we see no reason why a persistent geek (with a keen eye on online defamation and libel laws) couldn’t make something very similar here in the UK with the cooperation of other tenants. Our feeling is that good landlords have little to fear, even from the occasional unfavourable (and very probably unfair) review. These things become valuable and insightful when different people repeatedly say the same bad things about the same continual offender.