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Photo: Chris Yunker/Flickr

A San Francisco startup that allows renters to bid online for apartments has drawn the ire of locals who believe it will only cause rental prices to rocket higher.

Recently launched Rentberry uses an eBay-style auction system to allow prospective tenants to compete for rentals. Every renter who successfully signs a lease will need to pay a $25 fee to Rentberry, and while landlords can currently post listings for free, eventually the company would also like to charge them a fee as well.

As an example, consider a three-bedroom apartment listed at $3,500 and then auctioned off at $3,900. Rentberry would like to see the landlord pay 25 percent of the $400 difference ($100) every month of the tenant’s stay.

If the model proves successful, the company plans to expand to Dallas and Houston.

Interestingly, landlords may not necessarily choose the highest bidder. They could factor in credit scores and references in order to assure the most well-rounded candidate. Rentberry will handle credit scores and references, as well as online lease signing. Landlords just need to upload a contract to the site.

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Photo: Rentberry

One concern is that Rentberry will act as a third-party intermediary for extremely personal information such as credit reports and personal applications. How safe can renters feel when dealing with a new startup and their personal cyber security?

A bigger concern is the negative impact Rentberry may have on the rental market in San Francisco. The company has already been nicknamed “the Craigslist killer” by SFGate, while SFist points out that it is “a new startup hoping to capitalize on the feeding frenzy that is trying to rent an apartment in San Francisco.” Amanda Guest, founder of the Mission’s popular online radio station BFF.fm, had this to say about Rentberry:

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Photo: Twitter

The app’s website specifies that bidding will be for long-term rentals, and it will be intriguing to see which neighborhoods it affects most if it does take off. The SOMA and South Beach neighborhoods may see the highest use because of their dense populations of tech transplants and extremely high condo rental prices. Other neighborhoods, such as sleepy Outer Excelsior, Sunset and Richmond, will probably not be affected as they are further away from downtown and not as desirable to the tech influx.

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