13 Feb 23
A review platform which describes itself as a TripAdvisor for tenants is using a left-leaning blog to seek business from councils.
Marks Out of Tenancy allows private tenants to leave reviews of their landlords and properties.
Writing in the Red Brick blog – which focusses on what it calls progressive housing policy and is linked to the Labour Housing Group – Ben Yarrow, the man behind Marks Out of Tenancy, describes renters in the UK as “paying steep sums for terrible conditions and insecurity, while the government drags its feet over promised reforms.”
He says that without properly funded enforcement and with reforms moving slowly through Parliament, state-sponsored regulation of the private rental sector appears ineffective right now. But he says his platform could help with enforcement if its reviews were used by local councils and other official bodies.
Yarrow tells Red Brick readers: “Imagine a scenario where a local authority had imposed restrictions on properties that can be used as Airbnb rentals – and the Airbnb platform reported back to a local authority when a property was being let without a licence.
“Or imagine a scenario where Checkatrade or Trustatrader reported non-compliant plumbers who were operating without Gas Safe certification.
“These scenarios are unlikely to occur – these companies would be hurting their own business by reporting their own customers, however Marks Out Of Tenancy differs significantly in that we have no vested financial interest in the rental transaction.”
And he goes on to say: “While a well-publicised bad landlord may struggle to find a new tenant, all the bad reviews in the world will not force them to make the necessary repairs if they are not minded to. This is where it becomes essential to work closely with existing regulatory and enforcement bodies at the Local Authority level.”
He claims that if a council worked with his platform he would provide “legally compliant, timely and accurate data from tenant reviews” which would allow licensing and enforcement teams to find out which properties were being rented out, the identity of the landlord, whether the property required a license, and whether it complied with the Minimum Level of Energy Efficiency standards.
“Through the Marks Out Of Tenancy portal, housing officers are also able to open communications with the tenant who left the review” says Yarrow.
Although he suggests councils could use his website to leave messages for the landlord, his blog makes no mention of whether his platform makes any attempt to get the landlord’s view of events before such a review is public; nor does it explain how landlords’ views could be sought if they chose not to use his private service.
Yarrow concludes: “We want Marks Out Of Tenancy to help bring about a shift in the fundamental relationship between tenants and landlords.
“But it requires stakeholders like Local Authorities and existing regulatory bodies to allow us in – this platform can be a valuable resource when combined with agencies with enforcement powers against bad landlords.
“Marks Out Of Tenancy invites housing professionals at Local Authority level to begin looking outside of the purely enforcement and regulatory systems currently at play, recognise that trade associations or professional landlord bodies do not aid with actively rooting out the poorest quality providers, but rather, that tenants on the frontline can provide an invaluable insight into the service provided by landlords and the products they’re obligated to maintain.”
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