Anyone who has cruised the Web knows
itís hard to find anything of real
When you really need to get answers to
questions, the Web can be infuriating. The
search engines come up with a lot of junk,
and it can take an hour to get what you
Whatís worse is when you finally find
what looks like the answer to your tenant
question, but then you realize it
doesnít even apply to your state.
David Dorfman knows how hard it is to
find information on the Web. Heís been
Web surfing for landlord/tenant
information for the past 2 1/2 years to
build his own Web site,
Dorfman, a New Jersey landlord and
former tenant, started his site when he
got tired of going down to his town hall
every year to fill out forms to rent his
"It was really for my own
convenience," says Dorfman. "I
was also curious about the different laws
that were out there."
Dorfman also happens to be a document
management consultant for the DMR
Consulting Group, a computer consulting
firm in New York, NY. So it was easy
enough for him to put all the information
on a Web site.
Soon other landlords and tenants
started asking him to post more
information on his site. Before long, the
focus of the site began to grow to a
A new look
Last month, Dorfman announced a newly
revamped Rentlaw.com Web site. Rentlaw.com
is not the first Web site that has
attempted to gather information on
landlord/tenant laws in the 50 states.
Until now, the New Hampshire Property
Ownerís Association (www.tiac.net/users/nhpoa/index.htm)
has been the most comprehensive site for
state-by-state legal research. And
Nolo.com has also been an excellent
resource for state-level landlord/tenant
But Dorfman has found that no single
Web site has all the information you need,
and heís trying to fill in those gaps.
"The information isnít always in
one place," says Dorfman. "When
the information is not readily available,
I contact the state or local agencies for
assistance. They can often point me to
other places where the information can be
found. My goal is to gather all the
information to make a portal for each
Dorfman doesnít want to stop at the
state level either. Heís encouraging all
city and county governments to
"All they have to do is send us
the information," says Dorfman.
When they receive pamphlets from local
governments, Dorfman and his team of
volunteers type the information into the
computer to post on the Rentlaw.com site.
"In the long run, our goal is to
let you come to the Web site, enter your
city and state or zip code, and then have
the site retrieve the correct information,
whether itís a form or local
Many tenant problems arenít easily
resolved simply by looking up a state law
or local ordinance. Many of us need legal
advice to resolve our problems.
"Wherever possible we try to refer
people to a local Legal Aid Society or the
state consumer affairs office," says
Dorfman. "We arenít replacing
talking to a lawyer, we just try to point
people in the right direction because they
donít know where to turn."
Heís also working with several
landlord/tenant lawyers who help answer
some of the tougher questions readers post
on the siteís message board.
"We try to encourage lawyers to
participate in the landlord/tenant message
Tenants and landlords can post
questions or answers on this message
board. Dorfman tries to make sure the hard
questions get answered.
"If I see a question from someone
who really needs help, Iíll call a
lawyer or the Attorney Generalís office
to help them," says Dorfman.
And since many questions are quite
common, Dorfman is working on providing
general answers to frequently asked
questions for each state.
Many fledgling Internet companies
struggle with how to make money. Some
Websites make visitors pay to access
Dorfman is trying to find another model
that doesnít involve membership fees.
"Thereís a town in New Jersey
that charges you for photocopies of its
ordinances," says Dorfman. "Why
should I have to pay to see an ordinance?
It should be free."
That does Dorfman ask in return for all
this free information?
"We try to encourage people to
help each other out," says Dorfman.
"If we help you, all we ask is that
you in turn should help someone else out
who needs a hand."
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