Earlier this week, NBC Chicago published a story discussing a new cell phone application, named “RentSpek” that would allow a prospective tenant to conduct an inspection of a rental home or apartment prior to signing a lease. The app, being developed by Chicago’s Landlord Advisor LLC, an online apartment search and review company, is designed to “increase transparency in the rental process” and “help tenants rent with confidence,” according to company founder Phil Castello.
With the app, prospective tenants can take an online tour of the premises while prompting the user to answer questions that have been broken down into separate categories: general area, interior, kitchen, bathroom, and mechanical and utilities. During the tour, the app prompts the user to look for things, such as signs of mold or water damage, and asks about the property’s features, such as if there is a balcony.
The app then asks the user to rate each item on a scale from one to ten and uses the answers to assign a letter grade (A through F) to the property based the ratings of the current and other users. Users can also add notes or pictures of the property using a phone camera. The entire inspection process is intended take under 20 minutes.
According to Castello, “The RentSpek app has been a long time coming. It’s a tool that renters can keep in their pocket to make sure the houses or apartments they’re considering don’t run the risk of falling apart during their lease.” Castello commented that his long-term goal for RentSpek is to develop a feature that would let landlords to endorser their property as “RentSpek Certified.”
RentSpek is part of a new trend towards using technology to improve the rental process. Last year, this blog discussed the cell phone app, “Squared Away Chicago” which was developed to assist tenants and landlords to communicate with each other, document problems with rental properties, and create a digital paper trail for complaints. That app allowed tenants to take photos defects in their rental property and message it to their landlord, as well as rate the severity of the problem and indicate when the landlord could come to fix it.
The Squared Away Chicago app was developed in response to the renters’ increased use of smartphones as the preferred method of internet access among low income households. According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, among households with an annual income of less than $30,000, 43% own a smartphone.
As this blog has mentioned before, both the Illinois and Chicago laws governing landlord-tenant relationships can be very complex. Accordingly, it is almost always in the best interest of a tenant that has become embroiled in a dispute with his or her landlord to consult with an experienced Chicago tenants’ rights attorney.
If you have questions regarding the rights and obligations you have as a tenant or believe you have been the victim of the unfair practices of a landlord, contact the experienced real estate attorneys at The Slater Firm, Ltd. today.