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Meet Rentbot, the chatbot that can help with tenancy law
Mon, 10th Dec 2018
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Ah, renting. At the best of times it's a well-oiled machine – at the worst, it's a tale of disputes, confusion and ambiguity. If you find yourself in a tricky situation  - or if you just want to understand your rights as a landlord or tenant, you can now turn to a chatbot for help.

Rentbot is a new chatbot that aims to make tenancy law more accessible to New Zealanders who use Facebook. The bot is able to answer questions about renting, and stays true to the mantra that knowledge is power.

Rentbot is the creation of charitable firm Citizen AI, which aims to use AI for public benefit. According to executive director Geoffrey Roberts, it's a great way of showing how AI and natural language processing can create a tool that helps people.

"With more and more people renting and typically the less well-off portion of the population too, Rentbot can help tackle the types of problems many people face and is available for a chat 24/7,” Roberts explains.

But he isn't the only one singing Rentbot's praises. Community Law Centres o Aotearoa chief executive Sur Moroney says Rentbot will help to improve access to quality legal information in an ‘innovative' way.

"It's exciting for Community Law to be at the cutting edge of getting legal information to people. Decent housing is so important to people's lives and Rentbot is a tool that will make important information more accessible. It will particularly appeal to younger renters.

Rentbot was built with the support from the Michael and Suzanne Borrin Foundation, which is a philanthropic foundation that supports legal education and legal research projects.

"Rentbot is about making plain-English legal information about renting more accessible to the 90% of adults who are on Facebook. Knowledge is power,” says Michelle Wanwimolruk, philanthropic advisor for the Foundation.

“When people understand the law, their rights and obligations better, they can negotiate for better outcomes.”

Citizen AI is also working on another chatbot that will help with employment issues.

"An employment law chatbot is really the next level for us, as it is much more complex than tenancy law. We are looking forward to the challenge of creating a really useful tool for employees across the country", says Roberts.

Citizen AI and the Rentbot project have also gained pro bono support from law firms Bell Gully, Russell McVeagh and Chapman Tripp.

If you want to chat with Rentbot on Facebook Messenger, head over to m.me/rentbotnz.