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What’s really so wrong about a bad-tenants list?
We rate doctors, teachers, profs, restaurants, Uber drivers. And landlords get rated online, too.So why not tenants?

Uber drivers even rate us. That’s probably the closest parallel.

Try being rude to an Uber driver or fouling up the backseat of his or her car, then see what price the app quotes you to be picked up outside a bar at closing time.

I’ve spoken with several Uber drivers who admit they have a cutoff. If enough other drivers rate a passenger low, they won’t agree on the app to give that passenger a ride. (If your rating falls below 4.0, expect to wait a long time for a car.)

Ride-share companies such as Uber and Lyft have admitted in media interviews that any app user rated below 3.0 is unlikely ever to find a ride.

Cab company dispatchers, too, know the names or caller IDs of problem fares and often refuse service to someone who has run off without paying or puked on the seat.

You can, like blacklisted renters in Edmonton, claim such ratings-based service is unfair because those doing the ratings can be subjective, arbitrary and unappealable. And there is some validity to that.

But the general rule for service businesses, professionals and frequent customers is: If your business, firm, clinic or level of personal service relies on online ratings, try hard not to be a jerk.

I suppose, having a place to live is more essential than most of these other activities. But why should people with a history of unpaid rent or property damage be foisted on another unsuspecting landlord down the line?

In a way, isn’t an online warning just a modern form of a bad letter of reference? If landlords can’t post their honest thoughts about a renter to a landlords’ chat group, shouldn’t it also be illegal for them to say unkind things about a renter if the next landlord calls for a recommendation?To be sure, there are jerk landlords who could easily add perfectly fine tenants (or more likely, tenants going through some temporary problems) to a blacklist for petty reasons. Landlord-tenant relations are personal relations and not all people hit it off with one another, even though one or the other, or both, has done nothing wrong.

And the black marks against tenants could follow them around, even after they’ve resolved the problems – unemployment, addictions, crumbling relationships – that made them undesirable in the first place.

The blacklists work like credit ratings that are never updated. You defaulted on a loan once, now you can’t ever get credit at reasonable rates even though you’ve cleaned up your act.So perhaps there has to be some mechanism for resolving disputes over the contents of these blacklists, some way to get off a no-rent list if you don’t deserve to be on one any longer.

But just as there are unfair, jerk landlords, not all tenants are angels, either. Not all of them are reliable payers or trustworthy about having unauthorized roommates. Some are rowdy partiers who tear up their units.

The province’s information and privacy commissioner is investigating these informal lists to determine whether the information shared on them is protected by Alberta’s privacy law. Personal privacy needs to be protected, but small, independent landlords need protection, too.Cracking down on these lists isn’t going to hurt the big rental companies. They already share info on rotten tenants with the resident managers at their multiple properties.

But the little landlords who have their life savings or retirement nest egg tied up in one or two properties, they already have too little protection under Alberta’s laws.


Story by: Edmonton Sun