Ofo Ezeugwu first got the idea for his business while serving as vice president of external affairs for Temple Student Government in 2013.
Specifically, the conflicts between some students and TempleTown Realty struck him as something he could fix.
“When I was running for vice president, there’s a lot of things dealing with off-campus,” Ezeugwu said. “We were trying to figure out how to help students with off-campus housing, issues with landlords and property managers. We wanted them to know what to expect.”
The 2013 entrepreneurship and management information systems alumnus is the co-founder and CEO of Whose Your Landlord, a website that provides property renters with information and reviews of landlords provided by former renters.
“We knew the idea was rock solid,” Ezeugwu said. “We knew we were changing the market.”
Users can post reviews about landlords, building complexes or property managers. Users without accounts can read reviews others posted and look at apartment openings.
“We wanted it unbiased,” Ezeugwu said. “We went to landlords and asked if the questions were fair. We just want to promote a transparent community that prides itself on accountability.”
Local landlords weren’t on board with being reviewed by their tenants at first, Ezeugwu said, but recently, things are starting to change.
“Anything you’re not accustomed to, you have to be careful,” he said. “So at first their gut reaction was, ‘This is crazy, how can students review us?’ Landlords were a little apprehensive, and then they saw how it panned out and how it can give them leverage to their advantage.”
Property owners can also sign up and pay a subscription fee to advertise their available apartment units on the website. Then, Ezeugwu said, renters can look at prices and reviews of the apartments on one platform.
Felix Addison, COO and vice president of Whose Your Landlord, said building complex owners and property managers are becoming more conscious of the ratings they receive on the website.
“People simply expect more from their landlords or property managers,” Addison said. “A few property management companies have been completely replaced due to the reviews on our website. The users are really beginning to hold their landlords accountable.”
Brittany Lewis, a 2015 media studies and production alumnus and the site’s content producer, said she has seen change in landlord behavior.
“Bad landlords are definitely stepping their game up and taking the feedback,” Lewis said. “Quality living shouldn’t be a privilege, but rather a right. So, by reviewing your landlord as well as reading reviews of potential landlords, this helps assuage potential housing issues.”
Whose Your Landlord is based in Philadelphia, but since it was founded in September 2013, it has expanded to include apartment rental information in more than 125 cities nationwide.
“We’ll expand further beyond that, but we got to be conscious of the communities we’re growing into,” Ezeugwu said. “We want to get our footing in other cities, but these are our main cities, and our brand relies on how well we can execute in these cities.”
In November, a business pitch from Whose Your Landlord received a score of nine out of 10 from both judges on MSNBC’s “Elevator Pitch.”
“Anytime you’re able to add validation, it helps,” Ezeugwu said. “It’s respectable because … it gives us a national reach into other cities.”
Ezeugwu recently met with Letitia James, the public advocate of New York City, who released the fifth annual Worst Landlords Watchlist for the city.
The two met to discuss a possible collaboration, which is still in the works. James’ office would provide Whose Your Landlord with data on landlords in New York.
Ezeugwu said he is also working with the public advocate’s office to potentially incorporate language selections on the website, like Spanish, Russian and Mandarin.
His long-term goal is for Whose Your Landlord to become an international platform.
“We get many emails and tweets from places like Mexico, Canada, Europe, telling us how valuable our platform could be to them,” Ezeugwu said. “We believe we have the best data.”
Brett Lane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.