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Bexley landlords develop property site to stop rogue tenants

PUBLISHED: 16:07 12 October 2012

Steve Hanbury

Steve Hanbury

Archant

It can be a constant worry for landlords, reluctantly handing over their keys to tenants who may not be quite as trustworthy as they seem.

Helen McCauleyHelen McCauley

Property owner Steve Hanbury, 36, who comes from a family of landlords, has faced this headache for generations – but he claims to have now found the solution.

Setting up the website tenantshistory.co.uk, Steve has found a way to create an online “community” that allows landlords and letting agents to rate tenants.

He said: “Over the years we have had fantastic tenants and some not so fantastic ones. There are rating websites for tradesmen, so we thought why not for tenants?

“We are not a blacklist for landlords to flick through. We want to shout from the rooftops about all the good tenants.”

Steve HanburySteve Hanbury

With four of his 16 properties situated in Bexley, and 15 of his father’s, Steve hopes the site will help change the ways of bad tenants. Through past experience he has become frustrated by lodgers who quite often falsify references or treat properties with a lack of respect.

He added: “It’s designed to help suffering landlords. Tenants might suddenly think ‘I can’t go from place to place destroying properties any more’ and change their ways.

“A lot of property owners are saying it’s about time someone has created a service like this.”

For some, the idea of an online database including contact details, past addresses and a personal rating may sound intrusive.

Steve insists tenants can refuse to give landlords permission to update their details and says an option to rate landlords may be available in the future.

He said: “We know there are rogue owners out there, just like there are rogue tenants, so adding a feature that allows ratings both ways is something we’re looking into.

“At the moment it’s a young baby growing fast, but when things settle down we can look to make adjustments.”

In a whirlwind year, the website has earned Steve a nomination at the national Landlord and Letting Awards 2012 and numerous invitations to speak at industry events.

Word has spread to local letting agencies such as Lakedale Estates in Bexley, which has started signing tenants up for the website.

Manager Helen McCauley said: “We use it as soon as someone moves in. If we get a tenant who applies, we can check that site to see whether they’re for us or not.

“We manage about 160 properties but are also landlords ourselves so we come from a bit of a difference in perspective.

“It’s very well getting references and doing checks, but it’s nice to have it from the landlord’s point of view.”

Having put his foot on the property ladder as a 25-year-old, Steve was particularly pleased when his site helped a young tenant who found himself out of work.

He said: “One young guy lost his job in the City but worked hard doing little bits to make sure his landlord wasn’t out of pocket.

“He then moved home and got himself in a position to look for a new rental, but found he had a poor credit rating. My site means he will stand a chance with landlords because he has an excellent rating on there despite his credit.”

Though Steve’s portfolio of properties is kept strictly to south London, the business has gone national and has users in Birmingham and Manchester.

The free service’s popularity stems from a question the website poses – what has a landlord got to lose?

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