Between them, University of Pittsburgh graduates Adam Gorzelsky, 21, and Katie Wilson, 22, endured seven years of renting from tin-eared landlords while living off-campus. The couple channeled their rage into creating a Web site that allows tenants to grade their landlords. The site, www.LandorSlum.com, went live in June; the couple plans to attract more traffic to the site in the fall semester.
You say on your Web site that Pittsburgh has given you a taste of renters' struggles with landlords. What has been your biggest struggle as renters?
WILSON: The biggest struggles I have faced [have] been dealing with mice in my apartment's kitchen, receiving no notification when my landlord wants to bring people into the apartment to show it for rental, and dealing with a leaky bathroom shower that poured water into my roommate's closet on the floor below.
GORZELSKY: The biggest problem I've had as a renter is dealing with a landlord who is indifferent and aloof. Although there were numerous problems in the house, I always hesitated to call the landlord because I simply didn't want to deal with his attitude.
There are many other apartment-rating sites out there. How is yours different?
GORZELSKY: We have seen that there are a lot of apartment-rating sites out there, but we are more of a complement to those sites than a competitor. The [condition] of an apartment does not tell the whole story. An immaculate apartment could have an irritable landlord, and vice versa. We're telling the other half of the story that has never been told to renters.
Landlords could complain that some renters are "ranters." Have you heard from landlords about the site?
WILSON: It's a shame that renters have earned that reputation, but at the same time, renters need to understand that landlords can't do everything for them. They have to hold up their end of the bargain too. ... Surprisingly, I have heard no complaints from [landlords]. I expected an unfavorable response, but it seems that quality landlords really care about their services and want to help renters the best they can.
How do you guys plan to "keep it clean," as you've vowed on your site? Things can get nasty in landlord/tenant disputes ...
GORZELSKY: It's my job right now to keep things clean. The users on the Web site have done a decent job so far refraining from using foul language, but when they do slip up, I'm there to censor the language.
Besides waiting for reporters like me to track you down, how will you get the word out?
WILSON: I am doing a lot to post on message boards across the country. We also have a group on Facebook where I keep members updated through messages and wall postings. I am in the process of e-mailing reporters, I spend time blogging on AOL and MySpace, and tell everyone I know about this new resource.
Speaking of publicity, I clicked through all 50 states listed on the site and found that Syracuse seemed to have the second highest number of postings, behind Pittsburgh. How did that happen?
WILSON: This was another pleasant surprise! When the Post-Gazette article came out [in June,] The Associated Press picked up the story. After that, I noticed that a few online news sites in Syracuse also picked up the story. The article went as far as Harrisburg, Ohio, Washington D.C., and I found some articles on sites located in Japan and Australia. I hope that renters in Syracuse continue to rate their landlords, because this site is really meant to be a national resource, not confined to one region.