Roomr, a new site for rating landlords and off-campus properties, launched today
The Georgetown Student Tenant Association, GUSA, and the Corp launched Roomr today, a new student-run site that allows students to rate and compare landlords and rentable properties around Georgetown. Users with a NetID can add addresses each landlord owns, review conditions for each property, upload pictures, and rate landlords by their efficiency and response to emails.
GSTA co-director Mary Hanley (SFS ’16) told Vox that Roomr will help inform students about area landlords through compiling the experiences of past student tenants.”Because the off campus housing market is so competitive, many students feel pressured to sign leases as soon as they can,” she wrote in an email. “Roomr will allow the student to check very quickly whether their potential landlord has mistreated students in the past.”
Previously, students passed on knowledge of landlords that mistreated their tenants merely through word of mouth, or through a basic University site that lists rental properties. “We constantly have seen clients who have horrible interactions with their landlords. We find… it’s the same landlords,” Alyssa Peterson (COL ’14), a founder of GSTA, said. “The problem is, when people graduate, there’s no repository [of landlord information]. People year after year sign onto these bad landlords and only in the middle do they realize [they have a bad landlord].”
Roomr will also allow potential tenants to discover more information about the property that they may not find when they tour the house, such as pests, broken appliances, and whether or not the house is properly licensed and inspected for safety. They may then negotiate with the landlord about such problems when they enter the lease.
“We foresee Roomr changing the way that students find off campus housing by making it based less off word of mouth,” Hanley wrote. “We are already looking into linking the information that the GSTA has in our summer subletting database with the information posted to Roomr.
GSTA moderates all comments about landlords and properties before they are posted. “We’ve ensured that only students can post by requiring a login with your NetID to ensure that landlords aren’t inflating their own ratings,” Hanley wrote. “Because the students writing the review are moving out, they have no incentive to lie.”
To protect landlords against slander, Roomr asks all submissions to adhere to its guidelines, which prohibit sexual content and personal attacks against landlords. Readers can also flag comments made on the site and ask for GSTA to review them.
According to Peterson, our normally unhappy neighbors in the ANC and the Burleith Citizens Association are enthusiastic about Roomr, since it makes landlords more accountable for maintaining their properties.
“They’re very supportive of students asserting their rights as tenants,” she said. “After a death of a student in 2004, they obviously don’t want other students to die. A lot of the reasons these properties aren’t maintained is because landlords aren’t giving students the proper equipment [to make repairs]. A lot of the houses are more run-down or in bad shape … that’s not necessarily the student’s fault.”
Roomr helps the University comply with the 2010 Campus Plan, which required it to build a list of area landlords. The Corp was chosen to run Roomr because “when things come from the University, students don’t necessarily subscribe to the concept. The Corp’s had great success with Classy, so we’re hoping to carry that over with the use of Roomr,” according to Peterson.
GSTA hopes that Roomr will ultimately help promote its services to student tenants. “Our biggest problem is that people only find out about the fact that we can help them when its too late and they’ve already spent months in horrible, often illegal living conditions,” Hanley wrote.
Sam Rodman (MSB ’15), CEO of the Corp, told Vox that its IT department is financially sponsoring Roomr’s development, upkeep, and server costs. When the site opens today, 350 Corp employees will have populated Roomr’s database to help encourage the rest of the student body to upload their own information. “On Sunday, an hour after ‘Game of Thrones,’ I emailed the entire Corp listserv. Hopefully over the next few days you’ll start to see a full-featured database as people start to upload information,” he said.
Rodman, on the other hand, sees the Corp moving to other IT-based initiatives beyond its storefronts and coffee shops, having built Classy and its own point-of-sale and payroll systems. “Because of our current IT bandwidth and expertise, we can take the department and make it more externally focused for the first time ever. The next big question is, what else can we build that’s able to serve students?” he said.
Finally, Vox had to ask Rodman: why the name “Roomr?” Rodman said that he wasn’t part of Corp IT’s discussion on the site’s name. “It’s definitely trendy to drop the ‘e’ from any tech-based site. I think that’s probably where their heads were,” he said.