Chatbot to help renters released

Community Law Centres o Aotearoa in partnership with Citizen AI has released a chatbot for people having problems with renting.

“Rentbot” makes information about tenancy law more accessible to the over 2.9 million people in New Zealand who use Facebook. Rentbot is a free digital assistant to answer questions about renting, and the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords. It can be accessed for free via Facebook Messenger.

Chief Executive of Community Law Centres o Aotearoa, Sue Moroney believes the chatbot will help improve access to quality legal information in an innovative format. “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 has been developed by Citizen AI, a charitable organisation whose mission is to use artificial intelligence for public benefit. Citizen AI Executive Director Geoffrey Roberts says, “Rentbot is a great example of how we can leverage advances in natural language processing to create a tool that helps those experiencing problems as a tenant. 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.”

Rentbot is the first of three legal information chatbots produced with funding from the Michael and Suzanne Borrin Foundation – a new 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. And when people understand the law, their rights and obligations better, they can negotiate for better outcomes.” said Michelle Wanwimolruk, Philanthropic Advisor for the Michael and Suzanne Borrin Foundation. Citizen AI and the Rentbot project have also benefited from generous pro bono support from law firms Bell Gully, Russell McVeagh and Chapman Tripp.

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