UPTOP wants to bring transparency to renting in Ithaca

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Jamie Swinnerton

Tompkins Weekly

 

After moving multiple times, and renting from several different landlords, Frank Barletta wanted something that made the process of finding and renting an apartment easier. Not just for him, either. Thus UPTOP was born. Currently, the platform that connects renters and landlords and takes out a lot of the hassle of renting is only being used in Manhattan. But in the coming weeks, Barletta, co-Founder and CEO, and his UPTOP team plan to launch right here in Ithaca.

“We had a lot of interest and surge in traffic from Ithaca,” Barletta said. “We realized that we didn’t know any landlords here and one of our team members, Hiro Narita, a Cornell graduate, had said that there’s a lot of tech savvy people here and explained how the market worked and how it is antiquated and felt that what we’re working on here can be really good.”

Currently the UPTOP team is in the process of making connections with local landlords and local organizations to get them into the UPTOP system. The City of Ithaca has been an integral part of the project, allowing UPTOP access to use the City’s Property Management Database for Certificate of Compliance data. They are aiming for a full local launch by mid-March.

According to a statement from the City of Ithaca to UPTOP, the Landlord’s Association of Tompkins County is eager to start working with UPTOP in Ithaca.

“There is a belief among landlord members that this approach may be the best way to move forward,” the statement said. “The LATC currently has a system they use but believes the opportunity to work with UPTOP can provide an excellent experience for tenants and landlords and improve the apartment rental process in Ithaca.”

Through UPTOP, a lot of the inconveniences of both being a renter and a landlord are taken care of. Don’t want to be the roommate designated with taking your cash rent payment to the landlord? Through UPTOP landlords can set up payment systems so renters can pay through the app, a lot like the payment app Venmo. Can’t find a convenient time to sign the lease before your move-in day? Sign it through UPTOP. Need to communicate with your landlord in a system that will keep a record of all of it? UPTOP can do that too. As Barletta explains it, UPTOP aims to be the only end-to-end system for renters. It’s not just a place to find your next apartment, it’s there for the renter (and the landlord) throughout the duration of the rent. Next the business is working on adding in a way for renters to make maintenance requests through the app.

But renters are not the only benefactors from a system like UPTOP. Landlords and property managers have also found it useful.

“The landlords are offered a free platform that allows them to fulfill all of those services for renters. It’s a way to list their current and future vacancies, communicate with prospective tenants, screen prospects to ensure that they are who they say they are and that they will be good tenants, which we all expect, have a lease sent electronically to be signed, and invoice tenants,” Barletta said.

To keep renters safe, UPTOP has included in their system a way to keep abusive landlords off the app.

“If there are landlords that are abusing our system and are bad for our community we will absolutely communicate with them directly to ensure the issues don’t occur,” Barletta said. “If they are repeat offenders we would be happy to remove them from our system.”

Being transparent with users, and allowing landlords to be transparent with renters, is what the app is built on. If users have complaints, the team wants to hear them. If they have suggestions or an idea to improve the app, Barletta said they want to hear those too, and will give credit where credit is due.

“Transparency is everywhere,” said Jonathan Foux, Chief Marketing Officer for UPTOP. “It’s respect, I would say. Previously it was a nicety, now it’s just what you expect.”

When it comes to renting, finding a place to live, Barletta said transparency is important to allow renters to understand what they’re getting and what they are spending their money on.

“Understanding what you’re getting and having a clear line of this is what I expect, this is what I got, this is what I didn’t get, and being able to share that I think is crucial for everyone that’s involved. And that’s not just the tenant.”

As for the name, Barletta said it’s not supposed to be strictly literal.

“Everyone wants to live up top,” he said. “When you think of something good, you are usually looking toward something. And for me that’s looking up.”

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