Using a website loosely modeled after Yelp, Isla Vista residents will soon be able to review their rentals, including how they felt about their landlord and their general experience living on the property.

Isla Vistans will be able to review nearly every aspect of their experience, including location and furnishings. Max Abrams / Daily Nexus

The website, developed by the Isla Vista Tenants Union (IVTU) and UC Santa Barbara’s Associated Students (A.S.), will help prospective tenants make an informed decision on where they want to live by learning about other people’s renting experiences, according to Sabina Menzhausen, technology director at the IVTU and the website’s creator.

There is currently no set date as to when residents of I.V. will be able to access the website, but Menzhausen said that she hopes students will be able to submit reviews by the end of Spring Quarter 2020.

Isla Vistans will be able to review nearly every aspect of their rental experience, including location and furnishings, and can choose whether or not to recommend their landlord, according to Sean Lieberman, A.S. assistant director for technology.

“It’s a rental evaluation and just happens to also evaluate the property management companies as well,” Lieberman said. “Were they reasonable when it came to giving you your deposit back, were they quick when it came to some kind of repair, you know, did they listen to you?”

“It’s a one-stop shop to learn where [people] want to live,” he added.

Menzhausen, a fourth-year biopsychology major, said she was inspired to create the website because of her experience with her own landlord, where she felt like she “didn’t get what [she] signed up for.”

She added that the landlord-reviewing component of the website will have two sections: one regarding the renter’s leasing experience and another about their move-out experience. For the leasing aspect of the website, prospective tenants can review topics such as landlord responsiveness and timely repairs, as well as general experiences in renting from the landlord. 

The move-out section will allow tenants to say whether their landlord set clear expectations for the move-out, such as whether or not the prospective tenant is expected to hire an outside cleaning company, according to Menzhausen.

The renter will also be able to choose whether or not they would recommend their landlord to others.

“It’s almost like when you sign up for classes, right, with RateMyProfessor, you want to know what you’re getting into,” Menzhausen said. “The syllabus may not encompass everything that’s actually going to happen.”

Landlords will be able to respond to what their tenants post about them, but renter posts themselves will be anonymous in order to prevent possible retaliation, according to Lieberman.

However, some landlords have expressed concerns over how renters might use the website, especially if it is based on anonymous reviews.

“People don’t usually say anything [on review websites] unless they’re upset,” said Michelle Roberson, president of Sierra Property Management.

“When they’re trying to get leverage over a situation, that’s when they go on there to make things go their way. It’s almost a threat instead of an unbiased opinion or review, in our experience,” she added.

While there are other websites where renters may review their rental experience, such as Yelp, is aiming to have streamlined reviews so I.V. residents can learn about their rental options in one place, rather than going to multiple websites.

The website is partially designed to keep landlords accountable to their tenants, according to Menzhausen.

“Holding them to higher standards, and then for the landlords that do treat their tenants really well, getting to promote them and showcase them as student favorites,” she said.

A version of this article appeared on p. 3 of the March 5, 2020 print edition of the Daily Nexus.