RENTCHECK goes live!
Blog by EETG PhD researcher Deivi Norberg.
“RENTCHECK puts agency back into the hands of small business tenants to have a much stronger footing with the potential to transform relationships between tenants and landlords because knowledge and information can be more equally dispersed. Improved and more equal relationships with landlords will cultivate distinctive neighbourhoods of small businesses again.” Anna Feldman – Wild & Woolly, EETG Leader, Clapton.
On the 30th June, East End Trades Guild invited its members to join the launch of RENTCHECK held at Rich Mix in Bethnal Green. RENTCHECK is a web-based app designed for members to easily share their rental information with each other. This helps commercial tenants to find out about market rents in their area, which improves their bargaining position during rent reviews and lease negotiations. The app also helps Guild members identify areas that have a lower market value if they need to move premises.
The launch of RENTCHECK included a demonstration of the app as well as a Q&A session with two partners from Collins Benson & Goldhill, Alex Hutchings, and Mark Brassey, and the general manager of Second Home, Dan Roper. During the Q&A, Guild members got the opportunity to ask any of their commercial property-related questions. Among the many topics discussed, Guild members wanted to know more about the extended eviction moratorium, the rights granted by the Landlord & Tenants Act of 1954, and the process of rent reviews.
RENTCHECK has the potential of becoming an incredibly useful tool for Guild members. EETG listening campaigns have shown that the biggest issue small business owners struggle with is the lack of affordable rents in London. Some have even seen over 200% rent increases during rent reviews. The pandemic and associated lockdowns have only exacerbated this issue since the loss of revenue has left many small businesses in rent arrears.
Some landlords justify egregious increases by claiming that the market rent in the area has gone up. This is often difficult to verify for commercial tenants because it is almost impossible to tell how much other businesses are paying for their rent. RENTCHECK aims to solve this issue by making it easier for Guild members to share data about commercial properties in their local areas.
In parallel to supporting members to take control of increasing their knowledge on leases and rental information Guild partners, the New Economics Foundation has produced Business in Arrears is a new report which argues that partial rent cancellation is in the business interests of both tenants and landlords and is the most sustainable option available for recovery.
Guild CEO Krissie Nicolson says of RENTCHECK “Over the years we learned that when small businesses talk to each other at street level about their rent issues, shared knowledge enabled them to negotiate rents lower than they would otherwise. By putting information in, members can get the information they need out for their rent reviews. A reciprocal act that puts power into the hands of small independents. In addition, RENTCHECK technology fosters a relational culture, starting face-to-face conversations instead of replacing them, encouraging solidarity and trust between small businesses on a hyper-local, street-by-street level.”
RENTCHECK is user-friendly and easy to access and is exclusively for members of the Guild. To access RENTCHECK join the guild here then visit www.rentcheck.london and sign up to make an account. Once your account has been authenticated by a verified Guild leader you will be able to access the map of London, where you can both put in your own rental data and access fellow member’s data too.
By clicking on one of the bubbles, more information will appear that lists, the annual rent, the size, lease length among other details about the property that affects its value. These fields were developed in collaboration with Guild members, Queen Mary University, and solicitor Michael Large. Michael is a Member of the Property Litigation Association and a lecturer for RICS (the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) and LEXISNEXIS (one of the leading trainers of lawyers).
The properties are also divided into business types which differentiate between shops, restaurants and cafes, drinking establishments, hot food takeaways, offices, light industry, storage and logistics, and gyms. This can help tenants not only look up the market rents in their local area but also establish how much neighbouring businesses in similar use classes are paying for rent.
In order to establish consistency and accuracy of the data, Guild authenticated member reps will verify the rental information of members. Each street rep overseas data of their designated areas to make sure it is entered correctly. Members own their data and they can remove it from RENTCHECK at any time.
Reps are legally bound by confidentiality and are not allowed to reproduce data outside of RENTCHECK. It is also important to note that sharing your rental data is completely legal. As Michael Large, has said: “The courts have long held that rent comparables are not confidential in rent reviews and that there is a public interest that tenants should be freely able to get hold of this information.” In developing RENTCHECK, the EETG has made sure that the app offers an easy, accessible, and legal route for commercial tenants to improve their ability to negotiate for lower rents
If you would like a tenancy workshop with an introduction to RENTCHECK for your street or area then get in touch with one of our organisers:
Waltham Forest – firstname.lastname@example.org
Tower Hamlets – email@example.com
Hackney – firstname.lastname@example.org