Wiki for renters?

The few of you who have read this blog for a long time know that it started out as a place for me to throw out ideas I couldn't implement myself, or didn't have the time to explore. Today's post hearkens back to that time.

I proposed this to my university back in 2006, after a fellow student ran into two landlords in a row who violated legal agreements and state law. When they spoke to Student Legal Services, they discovered - too late - that many other students had similar problems with those landlords. I used to knock on random doors in apartment complexes to get a feel for the neighborhood, but that's not nearly so practical anymore.

So here is my proposal - one I don't have the ability to do myself. I think it would be especially useful for students and active-duty military personnel, since they move so much and need a candid, honest appraisal of the situation. The few I've seen previously are commercial ventures rather than something based in the needs of a particular population (again, students or military members).

So what are your thoughts? Could you - or would you - use such a service?

RATIONALE OF NEED: An acquaintance recently moved. She has had numerous problems with her landlord - including violations of state law. When she contacted the university Legal department, the lawyer recognized the name of the landlord; she had taken advantage of students before.

SOLUTION: Create a wiki (definition at: ) or a PHP based message board within the university website with the express intent of students sharing experiences with landlords in the area.


Credibility: This would be a collection of user experiences, nothing more. Minimal editorial needs would be similar to that of services such as The intent is not to replicate the Better Business Bureau, but to enhance word-of-mouth customer experiences.

Security/Authentication: Being under the university network umbrella would inherently restrict access to students and faculty.

Abuse: With tracking/login already handled by the university system, abuse could be easily monitored and corrected.

Resources: Server time and space for both wikis and messageboards need not be large. Further, ready-to-run packages for both exist as open source or freeware, meaning minimal startup costs.

Value: The value of the service will depend entirely upon the number of students who use it. However, financial and emotional hardships created by bad landlord situations drain resources from students - potentially leading to reduced income for the university - and from the university itself in additional demand on legal services.