Couch surfing

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February 18, 2011

12:03 AM

As many students know, the rental market can be a frightening — and sometimes frighteningly disingenuous — place. Students entering into a contract with their landlord sometimes lack a source of reliable information, leaving them vulnerable to manipulation; everyone has heard the same horror stories: the roommates who moved into a house only to discover rain leaking through the roof on mold growing in the cabinet.

Well, for students looking to avoid soggy rentals and flaky landlords, there may soon be hope. The Student Assembly has moved to work with the neighborhood relations committee to create a website for student renters to discuss and rate Williamsburg rental properties and their proprietors. Given the abuse that some students inevitably face from the rental process — inattentive landlords, property in need of serious repairs — we wholeheartedly support the SA’s plan. An open forum for past and current renters to discuss their experiences would be an important resource for those students living off campus.
Students are exploited by a lack of information. Any tool we can give student renters — any way they can check up on their rental or their future landlord — is for the better.

We realize that any website, especially one that relies on user input, runs into some all-but-unavoidable problems: They often attract more negative reactions than positive, and there’s always the possibility that ratings will be skewed by landlords themselves. These are faults with which we would be happy to tolerate. As long as the site is functional, well-designed and somewhat broadly used, it will prove invaluable.

Thus, we are glad to see SA leaning toward outsourcing the site by working with “Rate My Student Rental,” a site that already provides a similar service to many universities. Since the SA has proven in the past to have its own issues with operating a website — see the ongoing problems with the SA’s own site — the decision is much appreciated.

With any hope, this website will give students a leg up on potential abuse, even if student ratings can be unreliable. In this case, imperfect information about the rental market is still better than none.

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