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The rise of rental rating sites: Should landlords be worried about bad rental reviews?

Article Posted - 14th February 2020

With the advent of social media came the ability for anyone and everyone to voice their opinions to a broad audience. Some clever people saw that, had an idea and ran with it by creating valued sites where people can go to find out what's good and what's not, such as TripAdvisor and Yelp.

These sites are useful for consumers who can then make informed decisions about which companies will deliver the best service and value for money. It's also useful for holding organisations who don't deliver on their promises to account – and has the potential to have a real effect on reputation and the bottom line.

Why is this relevant to landlords?

There are now rating sites for almost every sector, including the private rented sector (PRS). This means that if your property isn't up to scratch, you don't complete maintenance and repairs in a timely manner, or there's another reason why your tenant is unhappy, your online ratings could take a hit.

The idea of rating your rental experience has an undoubted appeal. It's common for properties to be viewed before an agreement is signed, but tenants, especially Millennials and Gen Z, are increasingly likely to also use Google to find out more about you and how you operate. While this may sound scary to some, from a consumers' perspective, this is standard research.

Choosing where you live is one of the most important decisions you can make. As with other big decisions, research is vital. Think about it: you wouldn't buy a car without a) taking it for a test drive, and b) finding out all you can about the type of car you want, e.g. its safety and efficiency ratings. Using online rating systems is part and parcel of this.

While existing landlord/rental rating sites are yet to be fully established, it could still have a serious effect on your lettings business if potential tenants use these sites before committing to a new tenancy and find a bad review.

But what about GDPR?

The NLA advice line has received a number of questions from landlords concerned that tenants identifying them on rental rating sites would be in breach of GDPR. This is rightly a concern but,  as a landlord, your details would be considered that of a business, and would not be relevant to GDPR. In short, there's nothing stopping tenants from giving you a bad review.

So what can landlords do to make sure they aren't affected by bad ratings?

In short, if you're a good landlord there shouldn't be anything to worry about. Bad ratings come from bad experiences, and bad experiences are more likely to be publicised than good experiences.

However, while most tenants will in all likelihood provide honest and reliable feedback on their experiences, the majority of long-term and successful tenancies will be under-represented, particularly because reviews are most likely to be given when the tenancy is coming to an end – the point at which the landlord-tenant relationship is potentially most under strain.  

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