Toilet overflowing? Just send a text.


Taking online banking a step further, tenants who use now can not only pay their rent and apartment utilities online, they can also file a request for maintenance on the same site. And since their e-mail goes directly to Joe Toolbelt's Blackberry -- in theory anyway -- there is the presumption that their leaky faucets will get fixed faster.

There is also the presumption that property managers won't have to listen to long messages from irate tenants.

The service is free for property managers to establish; each apartment unit is registered with an individual account. A fee of $3.95 per month is charged to tenants. Property managers may absorb the fee, which is discounted for volume.

The one-stop online rental portal idea was Kevin Eberly's entrepreneurship class project while he was getting his master's degree at USC's Marshall School of Business. The business model worked so well that Eberly beta-tested it on the 4,000 apartment units his family manages. The site, which debuted nationally, has 25,000 units signed up.

As for Joe Toolbelt, nobody says he has to keep his cell phone turned on.