Ahh, wonderful: the controversial American rent-bidding app, Rentberry, is going to be launched in Australia this year. Just in case your housing future wasn’t already shaky enough, now you get to bid against other desperate tenants!
The app has been ambivalently described as the “eBay of renting“. It hosts online auctions for rental properties, allowing tenants to create profiles and submit offers that a landlord will then assess. Bidding tenants can see how much others are putting on the line, and the landlord gets to pick their favourite from the bidding pool.
While the thought of frantically trying to outbid other poor blighters just trying to put a roof over their heads turns my stomach, the app’s developers are quick to deny that landlords will just pick the highest possible rent.
According to co-founder Alex Lubinsky, Rentberry’s built-in credit checks and references will help landlords to decide whether a prospective tenant will be a good bet. The idea is to give renters with a good rental history a better chance.
Despite Lubinsky saying that the app’s transparency was a benefit for everyone, Tenants Union of NSW senior policy officer Ned Cutcher is not convinced.
“From that perspective, people might look at it and say ‘maybe that’s alright’, but I think it still missing the point of what’s dangerous about rent auctions, which is that it has the potential to really push the cost of renting even higher than it already is.
“Bidding wars are really only designed for one thing – and that is to push prices up.”
Tenants Union of Victoria policy officer Yaelle Caspi agrees:
“With so many tenants desperate for a home, it is likely that tenants will offer more than they can afford in an attempt to get ahead.”
Rentberry has got the legal go-ahead, and will launch in Sydney before spreading to Melbourne and beyond.
What fantastic news for everyone.
Image: Broad City.