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Some bad landlords who are guilty of terrible misdemeanours are able to avoid justice due to weaknesses within legislation in the UK, which often allows the worst landlords to continue operating. But one person is aiming to redress this power balance, by creating a scheme which allows tenants to give their landlord a rating online.

For the majority of tenants in the UK, power truly lies in their landlord’s hands. With the government considering a Private Members’ Bill which aims to tackle rogue landlords, Ben Yarrow, is aiming to create a shortcut for the system by designing a solution. This is a service which allows tenants to post a review of their landlord online, called Marks Out of Tenancy.

The Bristol-based entrepreneur hopes that Marks Out of Tenancy will become the private rented sector’s equivalent of TripAdvisor in the hospitality sector. First launched in April 2017, the website has so far amassed 3,500 registered users. To develop this database, Mr Yarrow, formerly a recruitment agent, has created alliances with a range of tenants’ unions and student groups. He explains that despite the fact that local authorities keep information on rogue landlords, they do not or cannot pass this information onto anyone else, which means that he has had to form partnerships with other organisations in order to spread news of this scheme.

However, ensuring bad landlords face justice is not the only goal of Marks Out of Tenancy. It also aims to help good letting agents and landlords so that they can differentiate themselves from the bad landlords, who can often tarnish the entire private rented sector with a bad reputation. Currently, little exists to enable property owners and letting agents who respond efficiently to complaints to stand out from the crowd.

Good property management software, such as that developed by Inventorybase, can help landlords and letting agents provide an efficient service which meets the needs of their tenants.

It is the aim of the Marks Out Of Tenancy scheme to help tenants find good landlords, while enabling the market to drive this change instead of waiting for regulation to change the industry. The founders are hoping to empower tenants to make informed decisions about the home in which they live, and give tenants a voice, especially those who are being taken for granted or overpaying for their properties.

The service also invites comments from tenants concerning the neighbourhood and local amenities, which will allow users to build an accurate impression of the area, before signing a tenancy agreement.

One group which particularly concerns Mr Yarrow is university students, where the effect of poor housing on the mental health of students can have grave consequences for their studies and grades. All too often, student properties are unfit to live in.

To ensure a fair balance, landlords are also entitled to reply on the site, as well as use a defamation filter. This automatically rejects potentially libellous or abusive posts, in addition to its sophisticated algorithm which is used to guard against any fraudulent posts, and an anonymity policy which aims to prevent victimisation and any reprisals from landlords.

Mr Yarrow is also preparing to launch a series of tools for tenants, such as letter templates and guides for renting.

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