The shoestring plan to put dodgy landlords and bad agents on notice

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Dodgy landlords and bad real estate agents are on notice after the launch of a new landlord and agency review website by Tiktoker and tenants’ advocate Jordan van den Berg.

Van den Berg, known on social media as Purplepingers, launched a website called “Shit Rentals” this week. The site allows tenants to submit testimonies about landlords, property managers and rentals to van den Berg, who manually uploads them to a public document with the address of the property and the name of the agency visible.

Jordan van den Berg said he made the website in hopes of addressing the power imbalance between renters and landlords. Credit: Wayne Taylor

“When you as a renter apply for a property the real estate agent and landlord have so much information about you, and you get nothing on them,” he said. “Nine out of 10 times listing photos on a rental were from the last time a property was sold. You know nothing of the experience of the previous tenants.

“This website is trying to redress some of these wrongs and to help tenants in a rental market that is against them and to help them make a bit more of an informed decision.”

The rising social media star has built a following by posting videos where he criticises rental listings for substandard homes with high asking rents, and has recently moved on to visiting dilapidated rentals and highlighting landlords and agents who refuse to make repairs or evict tenants.

The website had amassed about 120 reviews at the time of publication – a mix of positive and negative reviews of properties, landlords and agencies.

“Small, but solid. Landlord actually cares about his tenants … Thick brick walls do a good job of keeping heat in during winter, and keeping heat out in summer. This also means heat lingers once it does get in. Invest in a good fan,” one review reads.

“The place had a mould and a German cockroach infestation,” reads another. “There is also only three power points in the entire rental and you would have constant blackouts.”

The launch comes amid a rental crisis. Vacancy rates are at near-record lows around the country and just 1 per cent in Sydney and Melbourne. A balanced market is about 3 per cent.

Rent growth has outstripped wages growth. Unit rents jumped over the year to June, up 27.6 per cent in Sydney, 22 per cent in Melbourne, 17.8 per cent in Brisbane and 20 per cent in Perth.

State governments this week moved to abate the crisis. The NSW budget included $300 million for the state-owned developer to build new homes and $400 million for a Housing Infrastructure Fund; the Victorian government promised to tax short-stay rentals, build 800,000 homes in a decade and strengthen renters’ rights.

National Association of Renters’ Organisations spokesperson Leo Patterson Ross said similar services had been unsuccessfully attempted many times before, but hoped van den Berg’s take on the idea would stick.

“Previous attempts at listing sites have struggled to get the volume to give people enough information they need to make informed decisions about renting,” he said. “Hopefully with the momentum Jordan brings with his social media profiles and the awareness of the crisis this will bring some impetus that’s been missing with previous attempts.”

Patterson Ross said it was an imperfect solution that was only necessary because of a lack of government regulation.

Jordan van den Berg uses a handheld thermometer to check for the source of mould in a renter’s home.Credit: Wayne Taylor

“It is still relying on individuals doing the work that governments should be doing, and we should have a standards system like we do around food, where we have standards that are set and enforced by the government, so an individual doesn’t have to do it,” he said.

Real Estate Institute of Australia deputy president Leanne Pilkington said agents would be concerned about how the website was run.

“I think it’s reasonable that terrible properties and agents be called out, but I don’t think it’s reasonable that the commentary is anonymous, it’s not verified and agents cannot contact the person who made the complaint,” she said. “Sometimes things can be rectified if the right person is aware of it.”

Pilkington disputed that “shit rentals” were as much of a widespread problem as van den Berg said.

“The reality is real estate agents don’t want to be managing properties that are dodgy because they’re hard work,” she said. “You want to be managing a property where the landlord is respectful to the tenant and looks after the property.”

Van den Berg said the website was still rudimentary, but he had plans to improve its functionality and had been contacted by web developers who had offered to help.

“I’ll never make it a subscription service, never make you make an account and make it as good as it can be while making it free forever.”

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