Why we built Rentlogic, and our mission to improve housing for everyone.

Learn everything about Rentlogic in this TEDxNewYork talk.

Finding a place to live in New York City is complicated. The variety of accommodations can be confusing: apartment buildings, walkups, brownstones, condos and co-ops. Competition for rent-stabilized units is fierce, and most people pay market-rates. Rents are among the highest in the nation.

New York City is also one of the few markets where the tenant pays the broker’s fee. This fee is typically 10–15% of the annual rent, which works out to $6,840 for a one-bedroom rental in Manhattan, on average. The fee, along with first and last month’s rent, and a security deposit, is due upon lease signing. Some people prefer to avoid brokers altogether, and find a no-fee apartment rental to save money. There are pros and cons to weigh with every option. But no matter how you approach it, renting in New York City is an expensive proposition.

While the New York City rental market is unique in North America owing to its cost and complexity, it does have one thing in common with other markets: you never really know about any hidden issues or problems with an apartment or landlord until you’ve signed a lease and moved in. If the apartment has mold, cockroaches, bedbugs, heat or hot water problems, broken elevators or unreturned security deposits — to name but a few of the most common issues — you likely won’t know until it’s too late.

Some landlords are great and fix things right away, while others are slow and unresponsive. There are many great landlords in New York City, and then there are these landlords, who give their peers a bad name:

Walls Not Included: How Four Roommates Got Duped Into Camping In A $6K A Month Williamsburg Death-Trap (Nathan Tempey, Gothamist)

2 Brooklyn Landlords, Accused of Making Units Unlivable, Are Charged With Fraud (Mireya Navarro, The New York Times)

Tenants Take the Hit as New York Fails to Police Huge Housing Tax Break (Marcelo Rochabrun and Cezary Podkul, ProPublica)

If you rent in New York City and have issues with your apartment or landlord you have limited legal recourses. New York City has a highly active #311 hotline for complaints about living conditions. Complaints may trigger a building inspection to determine whether or not there is a specific violation. If a violation is found, the penalty is often a small fine, viewed by some bad-actor landlords as a cost of doing business.

If a problem is serious enough, you can also choose to go to court, where you will face your landlord’s legal counsel — an experienced legal team on retainer, accustomed to dealing with all kinds of landlord-tenant problems. And, like many other cities, New York City Courts are overburdened and expensive. And there is no guarantee of success.

Choosing to pursue your landlord in court can invite other consequences too, even if you are ultimately successful. You may find yourself on one of the “Tenant Blacklists” which will make it harder for you to find your next apartment — and since you may already be thinking about moving, this is a strong disincentive to go to court at all.

These limited options — complain, sue or move — all require that a problem exist before action be taken, and can leave tenants severely out of pocket, or out of home.

Landlords will tell you that they also face uncertainty and risks when renting to a new tenant. Some tenants are great, paying on time and caring responsibly for their unit. Others do not. That’s why landlords use references and credit checks, and even the infamous tenant blacklists to identify problem tenants.

This is why we started Rentlogic — to give tenants the tools they need to identify problem rentals before they move in.

At Rentlogic, we view the leasing transaction as a two-way street where tenants pay for a place to live and for services that go with it. In exchange, landlords should adhere to building and safety standards, respect the law, and expect that a tenant will respect the property they’ve been leased.

With Rentlogic, we’ve built a platform that can help level the playing field: a rental apartment search engine with a twist. Rentlogic analyzes hundreds of millions of #311 complaints, building inspections and property records in order to paint a clear picture about an apartment before you sign a lease. We look at hundreds of indicators, such as:

  • Are there several complaints made by tenants against this particular landlord or building? What kind of complaints are they and how often do they occur?
  • Does the building have a history of mold, bedbugs, roaches or other health hazards?
  • Do we notice an increase in the number of heat and hot water problems during the winter months?

While some problems with a building might be normal and expected, what is normal? Rather than using intuition or hearsay to make assumptions, we look at the data. We compare every building to every other similar building and go where the data leads us.

Listings on our site are very different than what you might be used to. Take a look at two examples below:

Rentlogic listings disclose known issues in advance.
The best listings naturally float to the top, so that they experience more clicks and higher demand.

Rentlogic ensures that the best listings rise to the top, so that they experience more clicks and higher demand.

Helping people find great apartments and landlords is what Rentlogic does, but it’s not why we do it. To give you a better understanding of why we do what we do, take a look at the screenshot below of our recently launched public beta.

Our system is based on a few assumptions. People want:

  1. To live in an apartment with few, if any, problems.
  2. To have a landlord who is responsive to problems as they arise.
  3. To pay a fair market value for their apartments, without overpaying.
  4. To find an apartment as quickly as possible.

We organize our rental listings like a news feed, displaying them from best to worst. This is where it all comes together and Rentlogic can do what it was made to do:

  1. Help renters find the best apartment in the shortest amount of time.
  2. Provide individuals with security before making an expensive decision.
  3. Promote and incentivize great landlords, giving them higher visibility and higher demand for their units.

People don’t want to sign a lease in a building full of problems — they do it because they don’t know, or they have no choice. With Rentlogic, renters get the full picture of their unit before they sign a lease. At the same time, it rewards good landlords and persuades bad ones to clean up their act.

By giving our users the tools they need to find the best possible rental, we also create strong positive incentives for landlords who create and maintain a great environment for their tenants. These landlords often don’t receive the recognition they deserve, and we want to change that. We do so by increasing the visibility of Rentlogic “A” and “B” grade listings throughout the network, giving them more clicks, higher demand and fewer vacancies.

In our conversations with real estate brokers, private landlords, and renters from across New York City, we’ve found that everyone agrees that giving tenants tools and transparency can create a better system for landlords and tenants alike — and isn’t that what solving problems is all about?

At Rentlogic, we truly believe that information and transparency can change the rental market and we hope you will join us on our mission to level the playing field for renters and landlords in New York City.

Because information is at the center of what we do, we would appreciate your help: leave a review of your current building and spread the word about Rentlogic.

We would also love to hear any feedback or comments you have. Please feel free use the submission form below or send them directly to yale@rentlogic.com.