SU launches ‘Rate Your Landlord’ Scheme
9th March 2017
In a follow up to URN and Impact’s joint investigation into Shields Student Homes, Connor Higgs from Impact sat down with Abel Hartman, SU Community Officer to hear about his new house hunting scheme, rate your landlord.
With campaigning for the University of Nottingham Students’ Union (UoNSU) Student Leader Elections beginning in earnest this week, it would be easy to forget this year’s team still have around 5 months left in their roles.
With just under half of their terms left to go, the current SU officers should be hitting their stride in terms of achieving their manifesto promises. Abel Hartman, incumbent SU Community Officer, stated in his manifesto that he will be setting up a ‘Rate Your Landlord’ scheme, and told IMPACT that he envisioned the scheme as a “sort-of Trip Advisor system that allows students to view ratings left by previous tenants, of the ratings of properties and the management of these properties.”
When asked about the benefits such a scheme holds for students, Abel highlighted his belief that the scheme will allow “students as consumers to shore up their power, to hold landlords and letting agencies to account.”
While Abel is the Community Officer all set to roll out the new scheme, the idea has been around for some time, with the last four Community Officers all pitching the idea. Last year, Sam Peake, Abel’s predecessor, completed a scoping paper to understand the options available in setting up a ‘Rate Your Landlord’ scheme.
All of the practical elements in its creation were left to Abel, however: “All of the discussions that I have had to have with some of the people who currently use different schemes across the country, that was all left to me.
“Our housing market is not unique, but we do have a housing market that is different from Birmingham or Sheffield, for instance, so we needed to figure out what works best for us.”
A recognition of the bespoke needs of students at the University of Nottingham (UoN) has led Abel into partnership with StudentBricks, a social enterprise founded by two students at the University of Birmingham in 2015.
Nima Salehi, a member of the StudentBricks organisation, highlighted that StudentBricks was set up as a result of first-hand experience with the issues surrounding student housing: “It was extraordinary that no platform existed where students could read and write honest reviews and information regarding the properties they have rented or were looking to rent.”
“StudentBricks allows students to rate their landlord and homes with an extensive star rating system alongside a comment section that will bring landlords to account as well as improve the overall standard of student housing. It takes less than 5 minutes to write a review using your student email address and it is a very simple process.
“The scheme has already proved a success following a partnership with the University of Birmingham; hundreds of students have begun rating their experiences helping even more students find the best homes to rent for the 2017/8 housing year.”
It is the student first approach that convinced Abel that a partnership with StudentBricks would be as beneficial as possible to UoN students.
“I felt that their proximity to students allows them to perceive the market from a different perspective,” Abel confirms, “and from our perspective, which we believe wouldn’t necessarily be the case if we would with other organisations.”
“In creating such a scheme for UoN students, the hope is that students are able to make a more informed decision before they commit to a property.”
Promotion of such a scheme is vital to its success, and when asked about this, Abel was keen to emphasise the wide range of plans already afoot to make the scheme as successful as possible.
“I hope to use my social media channels; I think they are all very good tools. Studentbricks have got some good ideas on this; they started from scratch in Birmingham, so they devised all sorts of schemes which they used to promote the service for students.
“One of the things that they did was to have a competition whereby students could win tickets, so that people would leave ratings, and quite a lot of students have done that. When I looked on their website, I saw that there was about 750 reviews that have been left by students in the last year.
“They also have an ambassador scheme, that helps to raise awareness amongst students. We are hoping to draw on their knowledge and expertise in working with students and implementing that best practice.”
The final question put to Abel was on when we should expect to see such a scheme in place; according to Abel, all shall be revealed in the next couple of weeks.
Considering the inherent difficulties many people face when using the housing market for the first time, it seems that such a scheme will be a welcome addition for UoN students.