In response to Don Davidoff's recent letter to the editor, "Don't Blame the Software," I have to say, those are all excellent points, and you're absolutely right: The target of my rant isn’t the software itself, it’s how the technology was used. 

As I wrote in the original piece, "I’m not arguing against the technology itself—it’s a great product, an effective tool.” So, all props to your love child. 

What I’m really describing is a sense of outrage about the social contract, as you say, because I think that’s a perspective that’s really lacking in our industry—that of the renter, the very people we serve, our lifeblood.

I think there’s a crucial lack of honesty when we talk about “what renters want.”

How does it feel to be on the business end of our business? Sometimes, it kinda sucks. You feel powerless, you feel gouged. All you want is a fair shake, to feel like you’re getting a fair deal. That’s what renter’s really want: Nothing more than the Golden Rule. 

And that’s what I’ve tried to bring to all the editorials I’ve done about being a renter—how it feels, the experience of being on the other side of the leasing desk.  

I’m not saying it was all bad. I’m not saying all we do is force turnover for a few extra bucks, flip renters like stocks, slap a pricetag on their head and dehumanize them. But I think REITs forget sometimes that these are people, and not numbers, they're playing with.

And I’m not picking on the software itself or calling it anti-human (though, to be fair, a 50% rent increase isn't exactly pro-human if that human's a renter)—no more than somebody who’s been shot blames the bullet. It’s the hand that pulled the trigger I was addressing.

I was just saying, this is how it feels to be the poor schmo who gets that renewal letter with the 50% increase. This is how it feels to feel nickeled and dimed by us. This is how it can feel to be one of our customers. 

And how would you feel if it were you? 

So it’s not about the technology itself, it’s about why our industry is one of the lowest-ranked in the court of public opinion; it's about why some politicians are talking about rent control again. And it's meant to spur a discussion, and it has: The "letters to the editor" I've received from this series have been really dynamic and I'll share those on this website soon.

Truth is, I wanted to like apartment living, and at first I really did. I would’ve gladly rented at another community owned by that REIT, no problem. But then I got that renewal letter, and I said, “never again.” 

So that’s what I mean when I say they lost a customer for life—not just that particular REIT, but every institutional owner everywhere (though the flood episode sealed the deal). 

And I bet I’m not the only renter who feels that way, that they got the bum’s rush. And I think that’s a valuable perspective. And I wonder why we as an industry don’t talk or care or wonder about that more.