While landlords may hold the majority of the power in their relationship with tenants, there is good news for renters in Queens, according to the creator of a new app.
Landlords in Queens respond to tenants’ needs at a higher and more frequent rate than landlords in other New York City boroughs, according to Allia Mohamed, the co-creator of Openigloo, an app that allows renters to rate their landlords and their buildings.
While the app has only been up and running for a little over two weeks, its creators have been able to gather that because landlords in Queens tend to operate smaller buildings with fewer tenants, they’re more responsive to those who live in their building. In many cases in Queens, landlords live in the building they own alongside their tenants.
“That’s there home, too,” Mohamed said.
Mohamed and co-creator Srujan Routhu developed Openigloo to give renters more power in what they viewed as an uneven relationship.
“Landlords are looking for tenants’ bank records, employment records, credit scores, etc.,” Mohamed said. “Tenants really get little in return, in terms of who the landlord is. Those are conversations that typically that can’t happen in the rental market.”
In addition to landlord responsiveness, the free app allows for users to rate their landlords and buildings on a number of criteria, including its cleanliness, noise level, pest control, water pressure and heat. Openigloo has space for users to share a short review, pros and cons of the building and any advice they may have for the property owner.
Alongside user-generated content, Openigloo gathers information on buildings, presenting all public data on a residence in one place.
Mohamed said the idea for the app came after reflecting on her own experience of renting apartments for eight years in New York City.
“Like most New Yorkers, my first apartment was less than perfect,” she said.
Mohamed said that she began to see a pattern where landlords “created this environment where the tenets were made to feel like inconveniences and not customers.”
Mohamed went on to earn her master’s degree in public policy at Columbia University, where she met Routhu. The pair then embarked on solving for many of the problems associated with renting in New York City.
Openigloo launched in a rental market upended by COVID-19. While many landlords, real estate agents and building management companies have struggled throughout the first half of 2020, their struggles are a direct result of tenants inability to make rent, as unemployment reached record highs in the city over the past several months.
The financial hardships experienced by many everyday-renters has sparked more conversation about tenants rights, according to Mohamed. Openigloo helps further that conversation, she said.
“During this time, the landlord-tenant relationship is really at the center of people’s minds. There are a lot of conversations happening right now,” Mohamed said. “Once people come back to New York, it’s going to be really interesting to see how landlords responded during the pandemic.”