As students scramble to find a sublet in the months leading up to the summer, a new company, called Flatbook, is easing this stressful process by providing people with a free service that covers their rent while they are away, as well as managing the entire subletting process for them.
The Canadian company launched in Boston on Jan. 27 and recently accepted seven Boston apartments, said Lucas Pellan, cofounder and Chief Operating Officer of Flatbook. Him and his partner, cofounder and Chief Executive Officer Francis Davidson, decided to found Flatbook last year based on his renting experience.
Although Flatbook is used by anyone seeking to sublet, it is most popular among students, said Pellan.
“In terms of people who are giving us their apartments, college students are the number one clients that we have,” he said. “Last year, we started to advertise our program to students because we realized there’s so many people leaving in the summertime and it’s tough for people to sublet their place.”
William Zhan, a Boston University School of Management sophomore who serves as the regional manager of Flatbook in Boston, said most students would love to find someone to sublet their apartment, but need of someone to make sure the entire process is legal and ensures their rights.
“That’s where we come in,” he said. “Flatbook will sign contracts with all students who want to sublet, which make sure how much we pay students and we have insurance package. If there is anything damaged or lost during summer, Flatbook will pay up to $10,000.”
Clarissa Molina, a real estate marketing and leasing specialist at Boston Realty Net, said Flatbook would effectively streamline the subletting process and would provide great utility to the many students in Boston.
“We get a lot of calls for short term apartments, but if companies like these are in the works, it would help because there is a very limited availability of short term apartments in Boston,” she said. “They are going to have to find a way to work around the challenges of subletting and finding apartments, but it’s a good idea. It’s something Boston really needs, a company to go to.”
Though Flatbook has been met with positive response, some remain skeptical about innovation in subletting.
“The demand’s there, the market’s there, the obstacle is getting collaboration with landlords,” said Jason Gell of the Greater Boston Association of Realtors and president of Boston Luxury Properties.
“It’s most of the leasing offices that brokers don’t want to be involved with and more importantly, there’s a relationship for a third party to get involved in,” he said. “You have to remember, the landlord has a lot of control in this process of subletting. Ultimately, it’s the tenant that signs the lease with the landlord that’s going to pay the price if the third party causes a problem. So I can foresee a lot of potential issues.”
Pellan said Flatbook currently offers services in Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, Boston, New York City, Miami, Brussels and Edinburgh.
Several residents said the service would benefit the community, which is predominantly students at the many universities that reside in Boston.
Erin Wizon, 22, of Allston, said she is currently subletting and has encountered minimal problems and does not see a value in the program.
“Maybe in the future [I will use it,] but not now,” she said. “I am just looking to sign leases and not trying to sublet anymore.”
Katia Ferraz, 24, of Brighton, said she knows people who would find utility in Flatbook.
“It’s a nice idea, but it also depends on the price,” she said. “I can do those things for myself, so the price is everything to me, but for someone who is busy, price doesn’t matter.”