Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Sensationalising the mundane

Both Stuff and the Herald are running the story that a new government website will "name and shame bad tenants". From the headline, you'd expect that the website will be a state-sanctioned version of RateMyTeacher for the rental market - RateMyTenant, perhaps? - with landlords venting their spleens and fulminating against the dregs of society who smashed the place up, knocked holes in the walls, or simply gave notice and moved out when they tried to raise the rent. Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, they're planning simply to put tenancy tribunal decisions online.

The government already does this for court decisions (High Court and above), and it serves a valuable purpose. Sure, people could use it to see if their prospective tenant or employee has raised serious questions on an issue of law, but the real value lies in people being able to look at cases and see what the law is for themselves. The same will apply to the tenancy tribunal. While the tribunal isn't a court and precedent is unlikely to play a significant role, there will be some consistency of decision-making, and the publication of decisions will help pin down for both tenants and landlords what their rights actually are. It will also allow them to learn what sorts of claims are considered egregious and unlikely to succeed - in other words, whether someone is simply trying it on or not.

Unfortunately, mundane news about the public accessibility of government documents doesn't sell advertising, so instead the media has tarted up and sensationalised the story. In the process they've missed one of the major benefits of the move: the ability of everyone not to check for a "bad history", but to know what their rights and obligations actually are.


So assumedly not only can you search to spot bad tenants you would also be able to work out who the bad landlords are with the decisions online? Who doesn't do a google on possible tenants/employees/dates etc these days anyway?

Posted by Span : 1/10/2007 02:18:00 PM

Span: certainly. And it should be very easy to spot those who are litigious or who have a string of decisions against them.

(I am however waiting for someone to set up There's clearly a market for anonymous online defamation waiting to be exploited...)

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 1/10/2007 03:25:00 PM

We used to use the walls in the library toilets at uni. There was a women's stall on the mezanine, I think, with a list of bad landlords on it.

Posted by Anonymous : 1/10/2007 04:11:00 PM