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New site lets tenants name their own rent in eBay-styled auction

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NEW YORK -- Ask anyone and they’ll tell you, finding affordable rent in a city like New York has become nearly impossible.

The desperate have opted to live in shoeboxes and closets for a pretty penny and even a Lower East Side bathroom that went up on Craigslist. 

In an effort to put some power back into the hands of would-be tenants, Rentberry allows users to name their own price for rent in an eBay-styled auction.

“We position ourselves as a transparent application process,” explained Rentberry CEO Alex Lubinsky.

Transparency is the keyword with the service, according to Lubinsky who says Rentberry aims to save renters time and money during the initial apartment hunt.

“We also do background checks, credit reports, we do allow you to sign electronically rental agreements through the platform – and we essentially offer all this for free,” he said.

In cities with high demand, the service cuts out the middle man.

“You have to apply to 10 to 15 apartments and you’re always paying $45 fees and it’s a very long and extensive process,” Roy Malkin, a New York-based consultant who works with Rentberry’s operations in New York City. “I mean why should I pay for fees for apartments that I’m not renting.”

First introduced in San Francisco, Rentberry uses the tenant’s profile and credit score – as well as their actual bid – to help the landlord determine if they want to take the applicant on as a tenant.

Money isn’t always the driving force.

“You don’t need to go jump right away and submit something higher,” Lubinsky said, referring to countering bids. “Maybe you can submit exactly the same offer because your credit history and your credit score is better.”

The start-up has received some backlash where critics say the service gives the landlord too much leverage and could spark bidding wars over rentals that would leave would-be tenants paying above market value for apartments.

Lubinsky acknowledged the criticism but insists Rentberry is about equality.

“We are about transparency,” he said. “What we allow on our platform for the landlord to receive a fair market price for the property.”

One fee that users have to pay for is a one-time fee of $25 and that’s only after they sign a lease.

If you want to get more information on Rentberry, visit their website.