The London rental market is, as we all know, monstrously distorted in favour of tenants.
Between their nakedly entitled demands for such luxuries as natural daylight and functional toilets, it can be hard for the humble buy-to-let landlord to earn two coins to rub together.
So three cheers for Rentberry, Silicon Valley’s latest killer app, which, after much success whacking rents ever upwards in the States, is now arriving in the UK.
It works as a kind of auction site for potential renters, cutting out and replacing the estate agents by directly pitting tenants against each other. Landlords sign up, list their properties and a guide price for the property, and then anyone who wants to rent has to prove they’re the best and richest candidates by trying to outdo each other with higher offers. They can also reveal their credit scores and how much of a security deposit they can afford.
If nothing else, it’s a recipe that could at long last see London’s stagnant rental market, where the current average rent for a two-bed flat is just £1,937 per month, pick up.
Rentberry has already infuriated the pinkos and the commies working at tenants’ associations in the various overcrowded US cities where it operates.
“I think that it’s very problematic,” Leah Simon-Weisberg, who works at the Californian rental rights group Tenants Together, told San Jose Inside. “It’s profiting off of a housing crisis, and I think that it just shows how you have to regulate this market because it does lend to so many opportunities to take advantage of tenants. How awful to promote something that aims to get the highest price on something that people need. Can you imagine if someone auctioned milk or medicine? People would be outraged.”
Now it is true that estate agents are scum, but the trouble with Rentberry is that it’s trying to replace them with something worse: a more efficient means of screwing people out of their hard-earned and increasingly stretched paycheck. The private rental market is awful enough as it is, and leaving it to regulate itself is simply going to stretch people further, leaving landlords - who regularly skirt Britain’s fairly shaky regulations and general lack of enforcement – able to act with impunity.
Rentberry claims to have saved its US tenants 5.1% on their rent, but it won’t publish this data. In a market like London’s, where there are too many potential tenants and not enough places to live, the app can surely only serve to push prices up as desperate renters square off against one another.