Apartment rental bidding app causing concern and acclaim

Click to play video: 'New app for bidding on apartment rentals in Vancouver'
New app for bidding on apartment rentals in Vancouver
WATCH ABOVE: As if the rental housing market wasn't tough enough, now there is an app that will let potential renters bid on the monthly rent. Nadia Stewart explains why critics say it's a bad idea – Aug 11, 2016

A new tool introducing potential renters and landlords to one another is garnering both praise and criticism.

The creators of Biddwell say the app allows prospective tenants to create professional online profiles to be viewed by landlords with properties on the site. In addition to submitting a renter resume, they can also submit offers based on what they believe the unit is worth.

Jordan Lewis, the app’s co-creator, said the app was born out his own frustration after being overlooked by landlords.

“This allows everybody to be viewed on an equal playing field, allow them to speak to the value of the property and then the owner can make an educated decision based on that,” Lewis said.

There are about 75 properties currently listed. Since the app launched eight months ago, about a dozen bids have been accepted by landlords.

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READ MORE: Report shows 5,000+ short-term rentals listed in Vancouver

“We want all tenants to have the ability to speak to value and give them a voice they currently don’t have in the market place,” Lewis said.

First year UBC student Taeuk Nam relied on Kijiji and Craigslist to find a place to rent. He’s welcoming news of an app that might help tenants with their search.

“It would be convenient because I could just search for places while just checking out the house,” Nam said.

Critics fear bidding wars

There’s no ceiling set for how high bids can climb. Alvin Singh, chair of Vancouver’s Renters Advisory Committee, said that’s cause for concern in a market where the vacancy rate is less than one per cent.

“I think it’s bad news for renters. I think in a city where the vacancy rate is as low as it is, it’s going to encourage bidding wars between tenants,” Singh said.

READ MORE: Vancouver rents too pricey for millennials: report

The app’s creators say renters can report landlords who encourage bidding wars. However, Singh and others still aren’t convinced, particularly since the province’s residential tenancy act doesn’t prohibit bidding.

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“The idea that a landlord is going to base their decision on the full picture is probably the best case scenario. In reality, they’re likely going to be taking a look at who is going to be paying them the most amount of money in a city this expensive.”

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