This site lets you review your landlord

Which to choose? Image: Getty.

If you're a landlord, you're likely to have the pick of hundreds of tenants replying to your property listing. Once you've picked someone, you can check them out via one of the tenant referencing services which have sprung up over the past few years. 

There are a fair few measures in place to stop your tenant trashing your house, refusing to pay up, or generally acting like the worst house-guest ever. And even if you somehow pick a bad egg, you still have that security deposit to make up for it. 

For tenants, though, it's adifferent story. According to Shelter, there are now over 9m of us in the UK, and yet beyond "looking them up and down" we don't really have any means of checking out landlords before we go live in their properties. Besides, it can be so hard to find a flat or house in the first place that you're likely to brush past initial misgivings ("Bloodstains? No problem!") for the sake of having a working kitchen and some sort of bed. 

One woman, though, is keen to redress this imbalance. Hannah Williams, who rents in London with her two children, launched Rental Raters just over a year ago. The site allows UK tenants to leave starred reviews of landlords and their properties along with a testimonial. As far as she and we can tell, this is the only free site of its kind in the UK. 

Williams tells me by email that she was inspired to create the site by the power disparity between renters and landlords: 

The playing field between landlords and tenants is far from level, as while most renters are credit and reference-checked and required to pay a security deposit, they don’t have the opportunity to investigate their future landlord or letting agent in return

What really broke the camel's back, though, was a friend of hers who was evicted at short notice by a rogue landlord, leaving him and his fiancé homeless. These stories are becoming increasingly common: without any laws on tenancy lengths or rent rises, landlords can legitimately boot tenants out if they want to re-let the property for more money. Meanwhile, a law against revenge evictions has only just been passed, and won't come into effect until later this year. For now, tenants evicted after they complain of bad conditions still aren't protected by law. 

Unsurprisingly, most of the site's negative reviews focus on evictions, deposit disputes, and flats left in poor conditions for months. Here's a one star review for a flat in Birmingham

Among other things, this person found a rat in their bed. 

Then there's this, for a flat in London

These tenants had a hole in their bathroom floor for months thanks to building work in the landlord's flat below, never got their deposit back, and put up with "erratic electricity" for their entire tenancy. One to avoid. 

And this flat in Uxbridge was, quite simply, terrible:

The site is still a little short on reviews – Williams wouldn't tell me how many she has collected, but says "the numbers are increasing all the time" – and is not yet a comprehensive database for would-be tenants. But even in these early stages, it's a useful resource. Tenants with grievances are, let's face it, more likely to leave a review; while would-be renters unsure about a property are likely to Google the address or landlord. If they go looking, they might now get some prior warning via other tenants' testimonies. 

One reason reviewers might be slow to come forward , and why no similar services exist, is that while you can leave reviews under an anonymised username, the site also asks you to detail when you lived in the property. As a result, it wouldn't be difficult for landlords will to figure out who left that nasty review, and they could, at a stretch, affect your chances of renting elsewhere by giving you a bad reference. This is also, one assumes, why most of the reviews are left by ex-tenants, rather than current ones.

While this could be a useful tool for some, the system is still stacked in favourite of landlords (who also made up 21 per cent of the last House of Commons), and against tenants. It'll take more than a ratings site to change that. 

 
 
 
 

Older people need better homes – but then, so does everybody else

Colne, Lancashire. Image: Getty.

Towards the end of last year, I started as an associate director at the Centre for Ageing Better, working particularly on our goal around safe and accessible homes. Before I arrived, Ageing Better had established some ambitious goals for this work: by 2030, we want the number of homes classed as decent to increase by a million, and by the same date to ensure that at least half of all new homes are built to be fully accessible.

We’ve all heard the statistics about the huge growth in the number of households headed by someone over 65, and the exponential growth in the number of households of people over 85. Frustratingly, this is often presented as a problem to be solved rather than a major success story of post war social and health policy. Older people, like everyone else, have ambitions for the future, opportunities to make a full contribution to their communities and to continue to work in fulfilling jobs.

It is also essential that older people, again like everyone else, should live in decent and accessible homes. In the last 50 years we have made real progress in improving the quality of our homes, but we still have a lot to do. Our new research shows that over 4 million homes across England fail to meet the government’s basic standards of decency. And a higher proportion of older people live in these homes than the population more generally, with over a million people over the age of 55 living in conditions that pose a risk to their health or safety.

It shouldn’t be too difficult to ensure all our homes meet a decent standard. A small number of homes require major and expensive remedial work, but the overwhelming majority need less than £3,000 to hit the mark. We know how to do it. We now need the political will to make it a priority. Apart from the benefits to the people living in the homes, investment of this kind is great for the economy, especially when so many of our skilled tradespeople are older. Imagine if they were part of training young people to learn these skills.


At a recent staff away day, we explored where we would ideally want to live in our later lives. This was not a stretch for me, although for some of our younger colleagues it is a long way into the future.

The point at which the conversation really took off for me was when we moved away from government definitions of decency and accessibility and began to explore the principles of what great homes for older people would be like. We agreed they needed light and space (by which we meant real space – our national obsession with number of bedrooms as opposed to space has led to us building the smallest new homes in Europe).

We agreed, too, that they needed to be as flexible as possible so that the space could be used differently as our needs change. We thought access to safe outdoor space was essential and that the homes should be digitally connected and in places that maximise the potential for social connection.

Of course, it took us just a few seconds to realise that this is true for virtually everyone. As a nation we have been dismal at moving away from three-bed boxes to thinking differently about what our homes should look like. In a world of technology and factory building, and as we build the new generation of homes we desperately need, we have a real chance to be bold.

Great, flexible homes with light and space, in the places where people want to live. Surely it’s not too much to ask?

David Orr is associate director – homes at the Centre for Ageing Better.