A website that only allows for negative reviews of rental properties and their managers has sparked heated debate over its credibility.
Last week Real Estate Business reported on the website, dontrentme.com.au that allows a consumer to locate an address that they have tenanted and write a review about their experience with the landlord and property manager.
Discussion erupted on www.rebonline.com.au over the possible damage such a site could have on the real estate industry.
One commentator pointed out the similarities of the review site with a tenancy database.
“As a renter I think the site is a fabulous idea,” they wrote. “There are plenty of sites out there blacklisting tenants why can there not be one blacklisting landlords or real estate agents? “Finally someone has created something for the little guy!”
While Leighton Walters, business development manager at True Property, hit back saying, “To my knowledge, agents cannot 'blacklist' tenants without money being owed as ordered by the local authorities and must be removed if the money owed is repaid. That's fair.
“The CTTT and Department of Fair Trading exist to promote fairness in disputes and have heavy penalties and fines for owners not maintaining their properties adequately,” he continued.
“To host a website, unmoderated and with no real merit needed to post a review with no opportunity for an owner/agent to respond or redeem themselves, I find to simply be unfair to those owners/agents who do the right thing.”
Another commentator simply wrote, “What part of "Don't Rent Me" do these industry people not understand? The connotation is pretty clear - the lack of 'positive' feedback is the point.”
While one property manager extended an invitation to the founder of the website.
“I would like to invite Anthony Ziebell to spend a month with a company in property management and be escorted around to see what is involved, to see if his website is really worth any credibility, as we can all prove him wrong.”
However Marc Prospero, founder and partner of www.renterratings.com.au believed review sites will always be available to consumers.
“We do not believe this concept is going to go away given consumer empowerment and adoption thus far, so whilst first mover advantage will be important, we aim to be a quality provider of a relatively new information service,” he told Real Estate Business in an email.
The site allows renters to rate a property and managing agent, as well as owners to request a rating.
According to Mr Prospero, his website was part of a business concept that has since undergone rigorous testing and thus far, proved itself in terms of further investment and growth. He does not work within the industry.
“After reading your story I agree with both points of view,” he said.
“Indeed my site allows for positive and constructively critical reviews.”
While Mr Prospero admits the growth of the site is not aggressive yet, the site has reached in excess of 1,500 properties rated since its inception in 2008.
“A proof of concept was completed in 2010, with a revamp and relaunch of the site in 2012,” he said. “We are still cautiously growing ratings. This is part of our decision to provide quality information verses just quantity."
According to Mr Prospero one of the biggest differences between donrentme.com and his site is that the the ratings information is genuine and assessed prior to being posted or available to the public.
Proving the topicality of this issue, in last month’s inaugural Real Estate Business 2012 Technology Roundtable, eight leading IT service providers discussed the impact of online review sites and the real estate industry.
“The simplest way to deal with this technology is to make sure you’re providing a good service,” Scott Shepherd, head of product at Rockend, said.
“I think the other way is to just be mindful of the technology and understand it’s there. I think a lot of consumers won’t necessarily judge you by a mistake or an issue, but how you respond to those issues. If you respond well and your resolves the issue for that clients, while it may not have started positive you can end that experience positively.”