Everything we do here at Roomi is focused on making it safer to find a new roommate or new place to live – so it’s no surprise that we spend a lot of time thinking about the best way to implement identity verification and background check solutions.
Through research and engaging directly with the Roomi community we’ve decided to update the way that Roomi offers background checks.To facilitate this change, we’ve found the perfect partner in Garbo. Garbo’s background check platform makes it easy to see if someone has a history of violent or harmful behavior via public records of arrests, convictions, and sex offender registry records. They’ve also published some info on our partnership, which you can read about here.
We think it’s important to share why we made this decision, but first, let’s dive deeper into why this is a problem worth solving.
In a detailed survey conducted of Roomi users, Safety was ranked as the most important factor (by a wide margin) for housing/roommate searches – other factors on the list were Cost, Ease of Use, Speed, and Variety of Options. In fact, Safety had twice as many 1st place votes than the next most important factor, which was Ease of Use. Somewhat surprisingly, Variety of Options was ranked as the least important factor, reinforcing the idea that quality is more important than quantity for housing searches!
The current US market for landlord tenant screenings is huge (over $3B and growing!), but this doesn’t account for the millions of people like you who are trying to look for a new roommate safely. Based on rising rental prices in big cities, a desire for flexibility, affordability, housing tech innovation, etc – we know that this niche in the market will only keep getting bigger. In the future it seems probable that housing options will be easier to search – but will it be safer? The logical answer is… only if we provide the right tools to roommates so they can help protect themselves.
Clearly safety is top of mind for renters, but what’s the best way for Roomi to solve this problem?
In the same survey mentioned previously, we asked Roomi users to rank the best ways to keep Roomi “safe and trustworthy”. Keep in mind the current feature entails running a Background Check on yourself and receiving a badge if cleared. All other tech or business considerations aside, clearly we were missing an opportunity to improve the trust and safety of the platform by offering the ability for users to run searches and view a full background report of potential roommates.
Lastly, it was important for us to understand the general attitudes and views that our users have toward background checks. We’re guided by the idea that Roomi should simply give people the tools they need to make better, more informed decisions for themselves. On the flip side, we also know that, historically, background checks can be deeply flawed, and in the worst cases enable housing discrimination.
Next we asked our users for their view of what criminal offenses, if any, should be considered as appropriate and useful when making a decision on who to live with.
The responses to these questions, especially the last one, gave us a pretty clear indication of two things:
- The current Roomi background check offering was lacking a few important aspects that our users clearly wanted (detailed report, ignore certain offenses)
- We needed to partner with a company that had a more progressive approach to background checks – ideally getting away from the pass/fail mindset in favor of delivering the nuance, context, and details that are most useful when deciding who to live with.
Although we will never stop innovating or listening to the needs of our community, the direction ahead is clear and we look forward to processing the next 100,000 background checks!