How Big Data Could Help Make It Easier For Landlords To Evict You

from Fast Company

It’s easy to track prices of some things: Drive down any major street and you’ll only have to pass a few gas stations to know roughly how much gasoline costs in your area. Turn on the news during the workday, and you’ll quickly learn how the big stock market indexes are faring. Go shopping every week, and you’ll soon know how much bananas or eggs cost at your local supermarket.

Real estate is more complicated, partly because so many uncertain factors go into determining prices. Buying or selling a house always involves a bit of gambling on pricing and transaction time, and plenty of rental lease signings can end with both landlord and tenant wondering whether they got the best deal for their money. No two buildings are exactly alike, and you can’t fully predict what’s coming on the market tomorrow, nor can you predict how long a new roof will last or how neighborhoods will shift in desirability over time. And traditionally, shopping for real estate to live in or hold as an investment meant working with experienced brokers or relying on your own knowledge of properties in your area.

But recently, a number of startups and more established financial data firms are collecting troves of information to bring a more data-driven approach to real estate markets, including for apartment buildings and standalone homes. It’s a change that’s helping to reshape the markets, bringing new investors into the field and letting landlords expand into new territory.

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13 Responses to How Big Data Could Help Make It Easier For Landlords To Evict You

  1. Zachary Crockett September 13, 2019 at 1:44 pm #

    This article raises many questions on how the relationship between landlord and tenant is becoming more of a business than ever. With big data companies being implemented such as apartments.com and zillow.com, landlords essentially now have the ability to create a bidding war against potential renters. This was not the norm in the past, Marc Rutzen, CEO of Enodo, a Chicago-based company, presents, “If you think about 20 years ago, it was a very opaque market… “There were no data providers in real estate. You knew your local market by talking to people” (Mendez). Landlords can now fluctuate their prices day by day in order to optimize their profit; no longer does the renter have the same playing field. This may sound beneficial to the consumer because the product is being pushed forward and advertised more efficient than ever, but what is a cause of concern is that the market would only be presented forth to those of higher income, and ultimately allowing the lower class to plummet in rental agreements. Wealthier landlords have also become less willing to negotiate and provide an adequate level of care with their tenets because of newly enhanced competition. As presented in the text, there has been a fair amount of documentation that eviction rates are higher when landlords own numerous properties rather a few. All in all, I believe there should be newly instated laws the protect the renter and protect them against widespread competition and inflation of rental of agreements.

  2. Kathleen Watts September 13, 2019 at 5:28 pm #

    Now, more than ever, property owners and landlords are able to do their business more efficiently because of the vast supply of website and companies made specifically to help them tackle the housing market. However, as the article states, this takes the person-to-person relationship out of the business. On the one hand, many see this as a step in the right direction. Landlords, especially ones with less properties, have an easier time meeting the standard for rent in their area. Renters also benefit because this standard protects them from greedy landlords and allows them to more efficiently compare apartments in the market. Furthermore, bigger renting agencies can prosper more easily because they don’t need to worry as much about the person-to-person contact and can regulate the needs and responsibilities of their renters online. On the other hand, this separation removes the human nature aspect of business. Renter can’t rely on their landlords themselves as much because they might not even have met them. Left out is the whole principle of renting or buying a home/apartment: the renter/buyer needs a place to live in order to go about their daily lives. The housing market should not be held to the same standard as an online clothing store. Often, if you know your landlord and are late on rent, they may give you a grace period. When it’s so mechanical like this, there is no grace period, which is why bigger landlords who have to have everything standardized to a T online have higher eviction rates. Philosophers and theologians have been discussing this trend of individualism for the past couple hundred years, since the fall of the Middle Ages in the 14th century. They claim that the more individual we get as a society, the more of our moral and merciful human nature we lose as a society. These big companies can’t see the family of four that was late on their rent because one of the adults got sick and missed a few days of work. They see a set of data on their computer that has been flagged and make a decision based off of that. The philosophers who challenge individualism would say that these landlords have disconnected themselves so much from the core point of their business that the only emotion they feel toward this family is greed. They no longer see the struggling four person family, they see someone that isn’t paying the money they owe. Money that should be in the landlord’s pocket. As we move more towards an entirely digital age, it is important that we make moves to preserve our human nature. Landlords, big or small, should make it a priority to know and understand their tenants beyond the data they see on their computer.

  3. Sean Distelcamp September 13, 2019 at 6:47 pm #

    New technologies in this field will certainly be beneficial to landlords and those who seek to invest in property. Having AI decide rent prices, manage payments and screen tenants are all ways in which landlords can reduce risk in their investments while also lessening the time commitment of being a landlord and managing property. This along with the trend of large investors buying up many properties at once seems like it may worsen the wealth gap that is ever widening in the United States.
    Firstly, big data deciphering complex real estate markets to know property values better now, and even predict what they may be in the future. It is likely that as this technology is perfected, every big landlord will have access to all of this information. But some people who are looking to rent for the first time or may just not have access will have a distinct disadvantage when trying to get a good value property, or trying to negotiate with someone who has the precise information of the AI.
    AI can also help landlords decide if a potential tenant is low risk enough to rent to. This could make it harder for people to move into higher value areas and it would make it much more difficult for a first time renter. Also, the AI may discriminate against minorities as that has happened with similar programs.
    The fact that AI handles payments would also make life more difficult for the growing American populous that lives paycheck to paycheck. A robot doesn’t care that your boss is late on your paycheck and you can’t pay for another few days. It will still flag the missed payment to a detached rich guy who owns all the properties in your neighborhood and you are likely to get evicted.
    Technology continues to give landlords distinct advantages, I believe that it would be wise to level the playing field for renters with better legal protections and regulations.

  4. Ryan Geschickter September 13, 2019 at 9:01 pm #

    Back when technology was mere innocent and not as big, the relationship between a landlord and a tenant was more of a hands on experience that was shared with words and emotions. Now, technology is one of the most important aspects of our lives and we rely on it almost too often.
    After reading this article, one can see that now with the assistance of AI there is a major issue, which is that landlords may have the upper hand in this relationship that may turn many heads and could change the apartment lifestyle for some. For some (the landlords) it’s a blessing and for some it could be a disaster (the tenants). It can be seen as a blessing due to the fact that now the AI can now assist and assess if a tenant is low enough risk to give rent to. This is a blessing for the landlord due to the fact that he or she can make sure that the tenants are ones that are respectful and good citizens as opposed to sloppy and out of control.
    In conclusion, one can see that the relationship has overall changed and for the better or for worse one cannot simply go back in time.

  5. Rav Gill September 17, 2019 at 1:46 pm #

    In the 1970’s, they said that we would have flying cars and robots. In the 1990’s they said that we would be at peace in the world. In the 2000’s they said, we would be in a stable economy. It’s 2019, and the farthest we have gotten with anything that was said, is artificial intelligence, and “the cloud.” A decade ago, you signed a physical paper, if you wanted to rent an apartment, house, or condo. Now, you use an apple pencil to sign on an ipad, and that’s it. The apartment, house, or condo is yours and they hand you, your keys. Why are we relying on technology to complete contracts? What happens if the internet crashes? These questions run through the minds of older generations that have been watching the world change the way it does business. Technology has made us much more efficient than we were and the internet, has revolutionized the world. But is the way we want to head? Shopping for real estate is one of the hardest things to do, because the prices cannot be tracked and that area is not stable. According to the article, “… a number of … firms are collecting troves of information to bring a more data-driven approach to real estate markets…” (How Big Data Could … Evict You) to change the approach on doing business in real estate. It’s a change that we need because the real estate market wants to be more attractive to investors and current landlords.
    Big Data is large amounts of data being analyzed for patterns, trends, and information that could help users. There is a company that is mentioned in the article “CoStar” that has a website that takes advantage of Big Data to allow users to see what units are available, prices, and when. The company can provide “reports for various markets and … enable clients like landlords to see how their properties are stacking up…” (How Big Data Could … Evict You) which is very good for business. This is a big advantage for landlords because they can compare their rates to competitors to see how they are doing and then adjust them accordingly. This isn’t only a benefit for landlords, but for shoppers like me. I know that I don’t have to worry about landlords being greedy and overcharging me. I can compare the prices around the area and bargain a better deal. Another blogger talks about the “… person to person contact” and I agree with her point about bigger rental agents don’t need to be concerned about regulating their renters. And, then she mentions how this can take away the contact that we need to be socially prosperous because if no one talks, there are somethings that can’t be communicated through technology. My concern comes in with regulating technology like this and how to create a strong defense for Big Data. Storing this amount of data needs large amounts of coding and strong walls of protection. The constitution doesn’t mention governing Big Data or how to prevent bad people from taking control of the data. The danger here is not only governance, control, regulations, it’s the no human contact. Landlords aren’t meeting their tenants, it’s all done through a web interface that is designed to disable the person to person relations. As we take steps to become technology oriented, we need to keep that human interaction present. Landlords need to step out from behind those screens and continue to make the interpersonal relation.

  6. Wyatt Slone September 17, 2019 at 9:38 pm #

    As Technology advances, the housing market does too. Now that most everything that involves our day to day life revolves around the internet, resources are expanding exponentially. Not only are you able to grocery shop from your own home, but you can pay bills and rent from the leisure of your kitchen table. These advances were created to help the human experience taking off weighted stress and adding leisure at your own command. However, sources are establishing that perhaps technology is not aiding housing investors and landlords but adding a negative monopolistic approach to the search for housing.
    Big Data is changing the game and not for the better. As more data is being released everyday about prices, big companies are attaching themselves to apps to aid in the search for houses. A big real estate data company Costar comments, “We collect about 4 million rent data points for apartments every single day.” This system is compiling price increases and drops all over the US in major cities just calculating the market.
    The problem begins to arise when big companies take over neighborhoods because you no longer are dealing with a real person but a system of data boards. A source states that bigger landlords can be a problem because they, “can be less willing to negotiate with tenants when they temporarily struggle to pay the rent, or even when their digital payment systems get things wrong.” I definitely can be bias on this opinion because I have had a living situation very similar, where I didn’t necessarily had a landlord but more of a company just owning the building and billing me. There is no personal relationship to be made between tenant and owner, almost creating a blockade between a healthy working relationship. If I was short on rent, the company did not care and just charged me a late fee, where if you knew the actual landlord they tend to understand your circumstance and give you a few days to get your rent together.
    Zillow and other companies were created to help the consumer find the perfect apartment at the touch of a button, however that is pushing brokers out of the market and establishing a price flooring for the neighborhood as a whole. If everyone can see the market then obviously the market will tend to all look the same some mega companies raising their prices because they now see that other places are going for much more. With this result it is begin to push consumers out of areas they previously could afford.
    Although real estate agents are still in high demand they now do most of their work over the internet for their clients, even though those clients could just do that themselves. If only we could go back to the old times where you had to search for places on feet.

  7. Mikaela Battaglia September 19, 2019 at 7:10 pm #

    The real estate market is indeed very touch and go. It is very hard to determine the cost of a property, and because of this there will always be arguments about how much one should rent or purchase a property for. While this new big data market seems to be beneficial for not only the tenant but also the landlord/investors, it also may cause a huge gap between their relationship.
    The benefits of the new big market companies that seem to be popping up everywhere is that it gives sort of a base line for how much a property should cost, and what the tenants themselves look for when renting a new space. This is beneficial for the landlords and investors, because then they are able to know what to implement into the building, such as a pool or washing and drying machines. Therefore, that would make the tenants stay longer, and make the value of their building worth more because it is occupied. However, this can now be done without the landlord actually conferring with their tenants about what they are looking for in a new apartment, and instead they can just look into the data and assume what they should incorporate.
    This gap between communication can be detrimental to landlord/tenant and seller/buyer relations. The personal aspect of the tenant knowing who they are renting from and feeling comfortable with that person would no longer be a thing, which would maybe cause issues with rent being late or other normal malfunctions in a living space. Also, if the landlord knew the tenant more personally, rather than receiving an electronic check for rent payments and deploying another third party to fix an issue that is happening, they may be more lenient with a late rent check or an issue the tenant is facing that would only be taken seriously if the landlord knew them personally.
    In reality, while these big tech companies are beneficial in a variety of ways, the personal relationship between the tenant and landlord is still very important and must continue to be a priority. For everyone’s benefit, because using technology as the sole way to communicate is very impersonal and will lead to miscommunication and further issues down the road.

  8. Max Nitzberg September 20, 2019 at 5:44 am #

    This article really illustrates how much technology has begun to revolutionize the real estate market. In recent years, many companies have been created with the purpose of collecting real estate data and distributing it to landlords and investors. One of these companies, Costar, owner of a rental search engine, “The company provides daily rent reports for various markets and even, in some cases, for individual properties, enabling clients like landlords to see how their properties are stacking up to competitors and adjust rents accordingly”(Melendez).With search engines such as Costar, landlords no longer need to go in person to see what their competition is charging. This data will allow landlords to make sure they always get the best deal possible for their properties. Buyers can also use this search engine to make sure they are getting good value compared to other apartments.
    Big Data and technology is removing the physical interaction that used to occur between landlord and tenant. Marc Rutzen, CEO of Enodo says it best, “There were no data providers in real estate. You knew your local market by talking to people.” Landlords no longer establish a personal relationship with their tenants, but instead use AI to see their tenants as data. For tenants, Big Data can make it harder for you to find an apartment if you are listed as high risk for failure of payment. With the increase of Smart Contracts, one failure of payment could leave the tenant evicted, without any communication with the landlord. The real estate market is growing more automated and more detached from landlord/tenant relationships.
    I believe that Big Data can be very useful to both landlords and the tenants, but there are some problems. While AI and databases are very useful to landlords, it is still important to build a relationship with tenant and treat them more than just their data. With the rise of technological advances in the real estate market, the need for regulations to protect tenants has increased.Tenants are the ones who will be most impacted by Big Data and the increased risk of eviction.

  9. Steven Evans September 20, 2019 at 5:55 pm #

    From a business student’s perspective that doesn’t even have much experience in the working world, I already can tell that big data is the big thing for all companies currently. Information systems and data analysis majors and courses are pushed, because universities know that those fields are rapidly growing in size and importance. As technology has developed and spread, it has become increasingly helpful in collection, analysis, and storage of data. Many, if not all companies today would hardly be able to function without use of big data. The author writes “Data companies say their huge troves of information and the algorithms that process it can help improve housing markets, enabling developers, house-flipping investors, and landlords to more efficiently deliver what buyers and tenants want.” This statement could be replaced with almost any other industry, because they would all benefit from a large amount of information. For example, online retailers like Amazon.com use previously searched items and recent purchases to determine what the customer might be interested in next. If the website didn’t store and track this data, I’m sure they would not make nearly as many sales as they do. The author then points out that only landlords and investors have the time and resources to analyze big data, while those on the other side like tenants, do not. I think it’s interesting that apps, websites, and software that use this big data seem to help the landlords more than the tenants. Maybe there could be a way to help both the provider and the consumer equally. As software developers find new ways to collect, analyze, and display data, they might want to find more ways that the average consumer could use the data and understand it thoroughly.

  10. Nicholas Hicks September 20, 2019 at 6:50 pm #

    The tenant/landlord relationship is evolving quickly with new technologies available. This article paints the data collection agencies and increased digitization of the landlord in a rather negative light. Saying that as landlords look to data metrics and move their presence onto digital platforms it removes the personal aspect from their interactions with tenants. This could of course cause issues as optimization may lead to online communications systems which make it difficult to communicate complex issues that may require the landlord’s personal attention. But these issues seem irrelevant because despite tenants looking increasingly towards the digital space for assistance, they still could simply call up their landlord on the phone and explain the situation or ask to meet with them. I don’t see how the inclusion of the convenient methods of streamlined communication serves to disrupt any of the already existent more personal lines of communication. And in terms of how the market is responding to the data collection firms that allow landlord to access all kinds of data points about real estate in a region, I think this is a great innovation for the market. These systems will allow for landlords to prioritize their efforts into renovating properties that are in ideal locations for buyers and better curating the availability of homes in the marketplace. Overall, I see these innovations as positives that will make looking for and finding homes easier for consumers. The caution around heading towards a virtual landlord, while not altogether unfounded, is a bit exaggerated as landlords will still be connected to their tenants via the older methods of communication only now if there is a simple request or issue it can be sent through a program or website that could potentially respond much more efficiently than the landlord could have.

  11. Mai Le September 20, 2019 at 8:52 pm #

    It is incredible how Big Data and AI have been changing how we are living our lives all the while creating products and services that model after our lifestyle to best cater to our needs. By collecting data and effectively analyzing it, individuals and companies are capable of make sense of complicated information by putting them into a cohesive pattern which aids them in making better decisions that minimize cost and optimize profit. Similarly, the real estate market for rental properties has been transformed for all the parties involved. However, this article, in particular, highlights the possible repercussion of such change in the form of pricing wars that drive up the cost for renters and ending of “tenant-landlord relationship”. Nevertheless, the concerns being described in the article is merely a fraction of the whole picture. it is obvious from the article headline that the author heavily relies on the fear factor. The article has the same narrative as multiple articles with catchy headlines that have published before in which us, the end customers/users, is a victim of advanced technology that erases human connections and only cares about money. There is a disproportionately lengthy explanation of how modern real estate works in comparison to the possibility of how renters would be affected, which barely covers the topic of “eviction”.

    The first concern where current and future tenants will have to receive the full brunt of a property pricing war is a valid concern. Despite this, the main purpose of Big Data and AI is not to do raise prices by comparing competitors, it is there to help set a much-needed standard in valuing properties that were hard to grasp before. A property price point is mostly based on the desirability of its location and the amenities offered by the landlord. Renters also benefit from this fact as well since there is now a standard they can depend on and like landlords they can also use sites like Zillow to know the market prices. This is a major argument against the first concern the article addressed but quickly cast aside to prioritize the second concern about human connection. There is one thing the author failed to realize that human connection is a type of service that sells as well. The current trend for businesses these days is to offer to customers what they need and even what they did not know they need, therefore if tenant-landlord relationship has a demand there will always be supply. Finally, concerning the fear of eviction and rent, there are currently regulations in place to protect tenants and the government will no doubt intervene and pass new ones to fit the changing market. A prime example of this is New York City battles against Airbnb rentals. Furthermore, the brief statistic that the author provides where larger-scale landlords tend to have higher eviction rate fail to draw connections to how they are using Big Data or AI to do so as there are many factors for such a number. In summary, the article “How big data could help make it easier for landlords to evict you” only depict a short-term worst case scenario using information that poorly supports the theory.

  12. Edward S September 20, 2019 at 10:36 pm #

    Data developers will need to consider what parts of analytics can be automatically generated whereas what parts demand more need of the human element. Monetarily businesses may be in a better position to afford and take advantage of data analytics compared to tenants. A Deloitte article by Aholt, Ditfurth, and Wormann proposed that data analytics for tenants will take longer to develop (2019). In addition as Desiree Fields from the Fast Company article has mentioned that bigger landlords tend to have higher eviction rates causes potential concern about if those eviction rates would rise even higher (Melendez 2019). Potentially some of those lease breaches could have been resolved through some sort of workout plan or negotiation. The law does not always agree with ethics in every situation and for this reason, there are situations that can arise in which landlords may exercise rights on tenants that are contractually permissible but unethical. Zach mentioned some of these concerns when he writes that wealthier landlords may be less willing to negotiate as well as Kathleen’s post who gives a hypothetical example of a family with a sick member.
    Another concern which Aholt and other contributing authors mention is that the emergence of data silos might occur in which stakeholders involved in real estate have access to valuable data but are not sharing it with other stakeholders (2019). This might cause a gap of understanding between stakeholders and their expectations of each other. In the larger picture another issue is raised about the obligations of private industry to the public. Might it be possible for private industry to develop certain real estate analytical tools that can make predictive evaluations on real estate markets that pose to benefit society? For example perhaps such data can be used to better estimate whether or not lower income housing is a viable option in a given city. In addition if data analytics are able to potentially determine what amenities tenants prefer it might also be able to help make predictive evaluations of how to increase a town’s appeal to prospective owners. This would not only benefit businesses but the welfare of the town as a whole. In part several of the advantages that American society enjoys comes about because private industry has been given the full freedom with limited government intervention to invent and develop and technologies such as data analytics will continue to lead discussion of what data should be made public.

    Aholt, H., Ditfurth, J., Wormann, V. 2019. Data drive business models will change the real estate industry. Retrieved from
    https://www2.deloitte.com/ce/en/pages/real-estate/articles/data-driven-business-models-will-change-the-real-estate-industry.html

    Melendez, S. (2019). How big data can make it easier for landlords to evict you. Retrieved from
    https://www.fastcompany.com/90400284/how-big-data-could-help-make-it-easier-for-landlords-to-evict-you?partner=feedburner&utm_source=feedly&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=feedburner+fastcompany&utm_content=feedburner

  13. Javier Tovar September 27, 2019 at 8:43 pm #

    Technology has affected almost everyone and everything we do and now many people might find it hard to keep an apartment or home. Every day more and more data companies are being created and collecting information on the housing market. Landlords are able to reach new limits and many investors have been able to enter the field as more information is available about real estate than there ever was before. Throughout history, real estate has been very difficult to understand and analyze when it came to determining prices. But now, the internet has changed that as information can be acquired with only the click of a button.
    These data markets have the ability to show people how their properties’ values have changed daily, and how to price rent on units frequently. Most of this data is helpful to owners of many properties trying to make the most profit possible. So, if I own four houses that I rent out, I can use all of this information on these databases to maximize my profit. This would be good for owner, but what about the person who is renting out my house.
    Constantly, in movies I see the protagonist not being able to make rent for that month, but they still continue to live in that living space. Their landlord is willing to work with them and they are able to make up for the rent at a later date. Now, with all of this data collection on the rise in the housing market, it can be much more difficult for landlords to want to negotiate with people. They would rather just evict you then give you a chance because of the risk of losing money. The data on the housing market has allowed many landlords to grow their portfolios at a super, fast rate. Do you think your landlord is going to cut you some slack on rent when he knows he can easily fill that unit with someone who can pay the rent? No, because the world revolves around three things. In my opinion, it used to be money and power. In today’s world, it is money power and technology. Technology is now used in everything we do, and it has been a great resource to obtaining money and power.

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