Measure to shame bad landlords benefits students

Remember when you moved off campus into a cheap apartment, only to find that the landlord didn’t take care of your residence? Yeah, we do too — but Pittsburgh councilman Bill Peduto has plans for these neglectful property owners. He wants to introduce legislation that would expose the 10 worst landlords in Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh Public Works would post their names and phone numbers in front of their buildings, encouraging neighbors and passerby to call and complain.

This shaming tactic might seem a bit dubious at first glance. It may make these 10 landlords clean up their acts, and thus could really improve Pittsburgh living. But would it foster discontent between the property owners and their tenants?

If this legislation makes tenants and neighbors speak up about their despicable living situations, then great: The conflict should help to improve living conditions for residents. Besides, this concept is hardly unprecedented.

Many other U.S. cities have similar if not identical policies, and Pittsburgh used it back in the ’90s to take out five “nuisance properties.” Why not bring back a policy that worked well in the past? Most people care about their job reputations, and being labeled as one of the 10 worst landlords in Pittsburgh can’t be good for business.

The last thing that college students are looking for when they move into their own place is a negligent landlord. Students might not know right away how to work out payments or what exact charges they’ll find on their utilities bills. The least they can ask for is a landlord who will be there to answer these questions — one willing to respond (even grudgingly) to the complaints of tenants, students, or others.

Housing prices in Pittsburgh are low compared to those in other U.S. cities — go check out San Francisco’s rental rates to appreciate Pittsburgh even more — and Carnegie Mellon students can leave campus housing as early as their sophomore year. This may contribute to the fact that about 39 percent of undergraduates live off campus, according to U.S. News and World Report.

Measures like Peduto’s proposed legislation will make this transition from college dorm to rented residence smoother for a number of students.