Landlords Turn to AI Chatbots to Manage Tenant Inquiries and Complaints

In a move towards an AI-automated future, some property managers are embracing the use of AI chatbots to handle tenant inquiries and complaints. Companies like EliseAI, based in New York, are providing chatbot services to property owners who manage approximately 2.5 million apartments across the United States, as reported by The New York Times.

These AI chatbots are designed to mimic human interactions as closely as possible, according to EliseAI CEO Minna Song. However, some tenants are expressing dissatisfaction with this new intermediary system. Software programmer Ray Weng, for instance, found the apartment-hunting process even more soul-crushing due to the reliance on AI chatbots. Weng highlighted that the automated responses often lacked clarity and were sometimes repeated. Even in-person tours were self-guided, leaving Weng longing for human interaction. “If it’s all automated, it feels like they don’t care enough to have a real person talk to me,” he told the NYT.

Despite the potential drawbacks, these AI chatbots offer the advantage of being available 24/7, ensuring that tenants’ concerns are addressed promptly. However, there is a concern about the accuracy of information provided by these chatbots and the potential for unfulfilled promises. The case of Air Canada earlier this year serves as an example, where the airline was forced to pay damages after its AI chatbot provided incorrect information about its bereavement policy.

Another ethical concern revolves around whether these chatbots should be required to disclose their AI nature upfront. EliseAI currently does not have such a requirement, although some experts argue that transparency would be beneficial in maintaining tenants’ trust. “All things considered, it is better to have your bot announce at the beginning that it is a computer assistant,” stated Alex John London, a professor of ethics and computational technologies at Carnegie Mellon, in an interview with the NYT.