How to Reduce Flatshare Bias: Landlords v Flatshares

The Guardians article Flatshare Bias: room-seekers with Muslim name get fewer replies is eye opening… but, dare I say it, completely unsurprising. The Guardian sent an expression of interest in a room to 1,000 online adverts in the UK, first pretending to be a ‘David’ and then pretending to be a Muhammad.

The Guardian comments that for every 10 positive replies David received, Muhammad received only 8. And crazily enough, some ads replied yes to David and no to Muhammad for the same room.

It’s not OK.

Firstly, because there could be perfectly good tenant out there you are missing because you’ve made a judgement based on name. And if you are declining because of Right to Rent checks, why couldn’t David be in the country illegally?

I also understand it… I hate it when a potential tenant sends me this:

Is the flat still available?

That’s it… no, nothing else. And I think to myself, ffs you’re just sending this to everyone, hoping someone’s going to reply and then go on thousands of viewings, waste my time to go there and open up, and you not pick my property.

But again, that’s discrimination, because they could be a perfectly great tenant. They’ve just not got email writing skills down.

Instead, I too use a copy and paste approach to my responses.

Hi

 Thank you for your enquiry. Yes, it is still available. The flat is £x a month, the deposit is £x and move in date is x. I am hosting viewings at x dates and times. Please let me know when you can come and view it.

 If you decide you like the flat (after viewing) and want to move in on the date specified, please send me an offer ASAP to this email. First offer at asking price, who can move in on the move in date gets to move onto the referencing and right to rent check process.

 If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask.

 All the best, Natasha

ALL ENQUIRIES GET THIS.

Once I’ve received the offer and the referencing checks are happening. I simply email everyone else and explain that.

If it doesn’t go through. I email them all again and say the flat is available again.

It’s a really simply process and everyone is getting the same.

But as the Landlord, I’m not living there… it’s different when it’s a flatshare.

As a single female, you may only want to live with other single females. As a couple you may only want to live with other couples. Someone may want to live with a housemate who has similar routines, cooking habits and lifestyles. That can be comforting.

The reason: quite honestly, in any home you live in, you just want the simple life. Your housemates to just fit in, so that you can sleep easily at night.

I’ve been in a flatshare, for many years in my early 20’s and quite frankly, you choose the wrong person and they end up making a ‘How to find your perfect boyfriend’ video and sharing it with your Mum. Or telling your friends that they have ‘one-si-itus’ about you and that they hoped you felt the same… the answer was NO!

The only solution to this problem is this.

If a tenant is looking for a house mate, then they need to be specific about who they are looking to live (without being racist).They should describe themselves, their likes, their lifestyle preferences and the qualities they are looking for in a housemate.

The person searching for a room can then easily decide whether they fit the bill or not. If it’s a yes, then great they can meet and figure out if they get on. Ultimately giving the situation a chance. If it’s a no, then no hard feelings.

Not everyone gets on, and they certainly shouldn’t live together.

{Side note: this only works if the person advertising the room givens everyone a chance… and, on receiving the email, you know nothing about the other person. So a meeting or a phone convo is always the best next step}

It’s a bit like marketing. You send out content to your ideal customer. With flat shares, you put out an ad to attract your ideal house mate.

And then reply to every potential house mate. That way, you aren’t discriminating. You’re simply finding the right person.

As a Landlord you MUST give everyone a shot at your flat. Make the playing field even. As someone looking for a house mate, you must be open about yourself and what type of person you believe you are compatible with and then let the other person decide if they are a fit.. then give them a chance.

Do you agree? Or do you think this could go one step further? Let me know in the comments section below!

Natasha

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