How startups are helping landlords rate potential tenants

Ever wish you could have an idea of what a potential tenant is like before handing over your keys to them? Now all is possible with the help of artificial intelligence software.
19 March 2018

AI-powered screening tools are now being leveraged to assess a potential tenant. Source: Shutterstock

Sounding much like an episode from Charlie Brooker’s “Black Mirror” series, landlords and property managers are leveraging the power of big data and artificial intelligence to essentially “rate” potential tenants.

Canadian tech startup, Certn, analyzes more than 100,000 online data points, from social media posts to criminal convictions, in order to create a risk profile for each consenting applicant.

Certn’s artificial intelligence software, named Claire, sifts through a high volume of data to identify trends and key features. From this, Claire generates “comprehensive applicant profiles with in-depth character mapping and consumer insights from thousands of data points without human bias or prejudice“.

As well as this, the company offers behavioral analysis questionnaires to applicants to gain information on things such as ethics, intelligence, honesty, attitudes, and beliefs.

“You can assess things like how clean the person is likely to be, their level of kindness,” the co-founder of Certn, Andrew McLoed, told CTV Vancouver Island.

“The big thing to note is that we don’t look at images,” he added.

Digital screening solutions like those offered by Certn, is especially useful in many of the over-saturated markets in some of Canada’s largest cities, where there is no shortage of wanna-be renters.

Traditionally, many landlords are likely to conduct their own investigations on potential renters in order to protect their assets. Such amateur techniques may include a little bit of social-media stalking to discover whether your future tenant is likely to have raging house parties every weekend or more likely to sit in with their ten cats.

This software is particularly helpful for institutional investors in the rental market. By creating a vertical village and thriving community with like-minded people, will lead to the likelihood of residents wanting to stay for longer periods of time. This software could also effectively cut costs due to not having to rely on agencies to fill your spaces.

While the Certn platform helps landlords chose the right renter to fill their properties in a market with an almost zero vacancy rate, many people are concerned with whether perhaps it goes a little too far when it comes to privacy.

Does the software go too far in relation to privacy? | Source: Shutterstock

It calls into question whether the foraging of individuals data from their social media accounts – for example – can be related to a tenant suitability decision. Such collection of data for this purpose could even be a contravention of the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA).

However, McLeod believes that the current privacy legislation is “a bit outdated”.

“Privacy is huge, and we’ve been very forthcoming with the privacy commissioner’s office,” he said. “I think generally they’ve been positive with what we’ve come forward with, especially when it comes to consent. We’re millennial’s, we built this product for tenants as tenants and not the other way around,” he tells CTV Vancouver Island.

The AI-powered system also strives to benefit wannabe renters who lack the traditional information that landlords commonly ask for, such as credit scores.

“By using our system, our landlords and property managers are able to approve 40 per cent more applicants than they were in the past. And we’ve been able to reduce defaults statistically up to 75 per cent,” McLeod said. “This is a great thing for renters. Typically in the rental market now it’s first-come, first-serve, and it’s not the best tenant being chosen.”