New app designed to help Vancouver residents search for safe apartments

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A Vancouver-based software development studio is launching a new app designed to help residents search for a safe apartment to rent.

The goal of Vancouver RentalDog, according to one of its creators, Louis Lapprend, is to help people access the information in the city’s rental standards database on their mobile phone while they are searching for a place to rent. This can help them to steer clear of properties with a bad safety record, he said.

“You’re looking at the place, there are signs for rent, but you don’t know what it’s like inside,” Lapprend told the Straight by phone. “It’s always tricky renting out a place, because a landlord is highly unlikely to ever say, 'oh by the way, this place is pretty dangerous'.”

The city’s database lists outstanding bylaw infractions in all licensed rental buildings with five or more residential units, and those with bylaw issues that have been resolved within the past year.

Types of bylaw infractions that will be listed through the new app include unresolved issues related to fire safety, building safety, untidy premises, and standards of maintenance, such as pest infestation and malfunctioning smoke alarms. Users will also be able to view property addresses and names of landlords.

Lapprend noted the app features a map that will show the properties closest to the user’s location.

“Whenever you start the app, you see in your immediate neighbourhood what the places are like,” he said.

This is the first app that CloudGraf Studios, which was founded in 2013, has created. Lapprend said the idea came about at the city’s open data “hackathon” last March.

“It was a good opportunity for us to put our skills together to code a map-based app, and for us to contribute to the ecology of the city by trying to help low-income tenants avoid the bad places,” he stated.

The app is officially being launched Thursday (December 12). The iPhone and iPad app is free and is available for download through the iTunes store.

Comments (9) Add New Comment
Dave Dumaresq
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Forest
Am I the only one who finds it disturbing that people who rent their homes in this city are now described, by default, as "low-income tenants"?
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Devlin
Only for iPhone.... Leaves out an awful lot of people...
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Anne~Marie Dumaresq
*proud* ^_^ (Devlin is right on.)
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Derr
Won't last because of lawsuits from landlords. Hope your back end is in Russia and not here
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Gail Rivet
I wish you a lot of success. Could be a pilot project for every city
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Louis Lapprend
Gail:
Thanks! We would love to work with other cities.

Devlin:
An Android version is our next step. (along with a web-app, hopefully)
We could not commit to it before finding out if enough people were interested in this project.
Now we know.

Derr:
Regarding lawsuits, we are not too worried. All the data is already publicly available here:
http://app.vancouver.ca/RPS_Net/search.aspx

Forest:
As far as I know, most of the residences listed in the Rental Standards Database are pretty cheap compared to the rest of Vancouver.
Although wealthy tenants could choose to rent in one such place, I think it is pretty unlikely. I could be wrong.
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Bruce
Remember to also check bedbugregistry.com
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Louis Lapprend
We tried to get in touch with the creator of the Bedbug Registry, but he never got back to us.
The Vancouver info is pretty outdated.
Moreover, we would rather avoid crowdsourced information, because things could get very litigious.

We are well aware that bedbugs are one of the main consideration for renters, and we hope Vancouver Coastal Health will eventually work with us on that issue.
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