After hearing horror stories from Temple University students about infestations, male landlords making female tenants uncomfortable and absentee landlords, Ofo Ezeugwu decided to launch a platform to save renters time and money.
“I just thought there had to be some way to review your landlord or property manager before signing your lease and that really resonated with students,” said Ezeugwu, a 2013 entrepreneurship and innovation management alumnus and founder of Whose Your Landlord.
Ezeugwu launched Whose Your Landlord, a site where renters can leave feedback about their landlords, in 2013 to improve transparency in the rental industry.
On Feb. 1, the first day of Black History Month, Ezeugwu announced that Black Operator Ventures, a venture capital fund managed and led by an all-Black team, invested $2.1 million in Whose Your Landlord. Ezeugwu will use the money to provide insights and analytics directly to landlords through an online dashboard, Ezeugwu said.
“If you can show there’s a financial reason why you should be nicer, people tend to listen,” Ezeugwu said. “What’s been really cool is watching how, by treating your residents like the human beings they are, you can actually improve the value of your properties.”
Renters can use the WYL website to post a rating or review of their experiences with home providers for individuals to see and base their future rental decisions on.
Ezeugwu launched the first version of WYL while serving as vice president of external affairs for Temple Student Government as a tool for students to review their home providers. He wanted to give residents a platform to share their experience and increase transparency in the rental market, Ezeugwu said.
“We were endeavoring into territory that frankly I didn’t know too much about but I just knew from a human perspective, I knew how I’d want to feel in the place that I called home,” Ezeugwu said.
Seeing the success of WYL among Temple students inspired Ezeugwu to pursue the business seriously in 2015. During the last seven years, WYL has expanded to include cities across the U.S., like New York City, Dallas, Cleveland and Las Vegas. The service has a blog with resources for renters that answer common questions about leasing and provide tips on how to be a good neighbor.
Layla Kasymov, a senior marketing major, interned at WYL from April 2020 to August 2020 and was drawn to the company following her own bad experience navigating off-campus housing at Temple. During her sophomore year, her landlord routinely neglected her apartment and sold the building without telling Kasymov or her roommates, she said.
Kasymov finds services like WYL to be especially important for college students who may not know what they’re committing to before signing a lease, she said.
“College kids, we want to find a place to live, we want it to be in a secure area, we want it to be affordable, but sometimes we never consider other factors like how the landlord will actually treat us, like how they will actually maintain the request or the condition in general,” Kasymov said.
Emily Madara, a senior entrepreneurship and innovation management major who interned at WYL in 2020, was attracted to their mission to empower renters.
Madara appreciates how WYL helps tenants stay informed about who manages their property and the managers’ reputations.
“It’s really important for people to know who they’re renting their home from or working with a management company to know how they actually treat people and what it’s like,” Madara said. “I thought it was great for people to have safe living situations and not get taken advantage of.”
Ezeugwu wants home providers to look beyond the business side of renting and acknowledge that the space they are renting to residents is more than just a place to live, it is a home where memories are made.
“You might remember breaking up with a boyfriend or a boyfriend breaking up with you in that spot, laughing hysterically at your friends’ jokes, crying because you did poorly on a test,” Ezeugwu said. “There’s just a natural, more emotional connection with the spaces that we call home than there is from home providers.”