Photo: dc_slim (Shutterstock)
Unless you’re incredibly fortunate, your time as a renter has probably included a bad landlord or two. Whether they want to keep your deposit for questionable reasons or refuse to answer requests for repairs, there are a few helpful apps and websites that can get you out of a sticky situation—or help you avoid one from the get-go.
Some tenant protection apps are for people in specific cities or areas. However, this one can help no matter where you live. One of the biggest and most common battles a renter can have with a landlord happens at the tail end of the relationship—getting that deposit back. You know that stain was on the carpet when you moved in, but now they want you to take the blame—and pick up the cost.
However, Deposit Defender (on iOS and Android) lets you take pictures and record audio notes of a home’s condition when you move in, documenting proof of how the actual state of things at the start.
1. Enter the property details
After downloading the Deposit Defender app and creating a free account, the first step is to enter the basic property details. The form is straightforward and requires filling out the property’s address and things like the number of bathrooms and bedrooms.
G/O Media may get a commission
2. Complete the room and amenities checklist
Next, you’ll confirm the property’s features by selecting or deselecting items in a checklist. For example, if your bathroom does not have an exhaust fan, or you brought a microwave when moving in, the app allows for specifying those things.
3. Add the desired photos and notes
Next, you’ll see a list of all the selected rooms with yellow notes and camera buttons to their right. Select the notes button to document details about each part of the home with your phone’s talk-to-text keyboard option or by hand.
4. Save and download the report
Once you tap “Done,” the app auto-generates a PDF of the report to review. After you confirm everything’s correct, select the option to download it to your computer.
Life’s unpredictability can mean you find yourself in circumstances that make it difficult to pay rent—and housing instability is even worse if you have a bad landlord. Rentervention is a site with a chatbot called Renny that can steer you in the right direction during rental challenges. Rentervention’s creators initially built the web app for Chicago residents, but you can use the site if you live elsewhere, too.
1. Enter a keyword or phrase to explain the problem
There is a a chatbox window you can use on Rentervention’s homepage site—simply type a word or phrase related to your issue, such as “can’t pay rent,” “eviction” or “repairs.” If the chatbot doesn’t understand the query, it’ll ask you to try again. Alternatively, it’ll provide a list of several issues, such as “I don’t have any heat, water, gas or plumbing,” “My landlord locked me out,” or “My landlord won’t fix problems in my apartment.” Choose one to proceed.
2. Follow the prompts
The chatbot will then confirm your issue by saying something like, “Am I understanding correctly that you’re dealing with an eviction?” Simply type “yes” or “no.” If you need to go back to the previous question at any point, click the “Back” option in the chatbot window.
Next, the chatbot will clarify that rental laws vary depending on where you live, so it’ll ask for your ZIP code.
3. Receive resources
Entering a Chicago-based ZIP code gives you the website details of a local organization that helps renters. Otherwise, the chatbot provides information for the most appropriate avenue for assistance based on your location.
Many people dream of living in the Big Apple and know it’ll cost a lot to rent there. Rental prices fell during the pandemic but are rising again in many boroughs. The high costs become harder to bear when dealing with a bad landlord or persistent, prolonged apartment issues.
An app called openigloo (on iOS and Android) aims to prevent such situations. It provides a database of anonymous reviews specifically from NYC-based tenants—although the app’s developers say in the website’s FAQ that it might expand elsewhere eventually.
Start by entering a New York City address—typing the first several characters will prompt a drop-down list appear, so you select the right one. The property listing with have several colored bubbles near the top that give you some quick facts, such as the number of evictions and whether the building has a history of bedbug issues, litigations, and open violations.
Here you can also leave your own review and find information about the property’s managers, details about their overall real estate ownership or management history, and other tenant reviews.
The tenant feedback section has star ratings for everything from noise levels to landlord responsiveness. If you decide to leave a review, there are several required fields, such as pros, cons, and your advice to the property owner. Making that information mandatory for a submission raises the likelihood that reviews will provide genuinely helpful information to other future tenants.
This one is less about protecting yourself from a bad landlord and more about being prepared in the event of other troubling circumstances, such as having your possessions stolen, damaged, or destroyed (in, say, a fire or flood). In those cases, having a clear catalog of those items can help ensure you can recover or replace them accordingly.
That’s where the Encircle app (on iOS and Android) can help; this home inventory app is free for homeowners and renters, and is full of helpful tools for maintaining a property. One of those tools makes it easy to document the contents of your home for future reference; in conjunction with your renter’s insurance, you’ll be able to submit strong claims to recover or replace your items.
Encircle allows you to record items with notes and photos via mobile and desktop for easy claims submission if you need to send documentation to your renter’s insurance company. You can also use the documentation for moving companies when you change apartments or move into a new home.