Finding a new apartment is stressful enough, but don’t think that your worries are over once you’ve locked in roommates and sweet digs. So much focus is placed on the space itself, the location, amenities and finding roommates that aren’t psycho that renters often overlook the most important player in their new housing arrangement — the landlord. How well do you know yours? As renters, we jump through hoops to secure our living space but all the due diligence has been one-sided, at least until Whose Your Landlord came along. We chat with CEO and Co-founder Ofo Ezeugwu about the website’s beginnings at Temple, landlord horror stories and why it’s important for renters to do their research.
What inspired you to start Whose Your Landlord?
The idea was first hatched during my junior year at Temple University. I was running for the [student government] VP position at the time and constantly hearing issues from students on campus dealing with their landlords and property managers. How could some sort of accountability be provided? What if renters could review their landlords so that they know what to expect before signing the lease? I knew this concept could help people beyond Temple, all around the world.
Why should we care about who our landlord is?
Peace of mind matters. While one side is collecting a check, the other side is sharing their laughter, their saddest moments — having very personal moments in the space. Real estate is not a purely transactional industry. One side is very emotionally invested. When you come home from work, you want a calm place to rest your head. God forbid you forget your key, something happens that needs to be fixed — you want to know your landlord has your back
Since starting the site, what are some crazy landlord stories you’ve heard?
(Laughs) I have stories for days, some insane things. One young lady in Philly kept reaching out to her landlord about plumbing issues but was being ignored. Her apartment was on the basement level and one night, she comes home from work to find everything submerged in sewage. She calls her landlord, texts him and gets no response. The next day he texts her, “Just have my rent by the 1st.”
No way! How is that even possible?
This stuff happens. There was a student in college that went home for winter break along with the rest of his roommates. They come back to school to find their house burned down. It turned out to be an electrical fire but at the time the landlord blamed them and wouldn’t let them out of their lease. They had to commute from their parent’s houses to school for the rest of the year.
You hear these stories and you think, “That could never happen to me,” but it could.
Yeah. There was another renter who reached out a few weeks ago. She comes home to find all of her stuff is stolen. Turns out her landlord wasn’t a landlord at all and disappeared with her stuff. We’re working with the Public Advocacy Division of New York City to help remedy the situation.
You can't make this stuff up. What actions can a renter take if their landlord is a nightmare?
First off, they need to understand it’s not a one-way relationship. Everyone has the right to be treated fairly and get quality service. In terms of action, they can reach out to their local councilman or councilwoman. Renters can also get an abatement, which is withholding rent until a problem is solved. Like let’s say the heat isn’t working in the winter, for example.
Where do you see Whose Your Landlord in five years?
I see us really expanding across the US and into international cities. We’ve been asked by Mexico City, cities in Europe and Canada, to bring our product to them. 40 percent of our user base is in Philly. We have a world’s worth of work to do in our home city though before we expand.
For more information on Whose Your Landlord as well as to see how your landlord ranks, visit whoseyourlandlord.com.
Follow Jennifer Logue on Twitter @jenniferlogue