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Peduto looks out for student rights

Do you live off campus? Take a moment and step out on the sidewalk. How many houses on your street would you call “total disaster areas”? If you live on Beeler Street or in the residential areas of Oakland, chances are that number is pretty high.

It would not be a stretch to say that for many students at Carnegie Mellon, Beeler Street’s reputation precedes it. City Councilman Bill Peduto is aware of it too, and he’s proposing reformed housing inspection legislation that would make it much harder for student housing landlords to ignore deteriorating conditions on their properties.

The proposal would codify mandatory inspections of student-zoned property (e.g., the houses in Oakland and on Beeler that are rented to students). If the properties don’t pass the inspection, the owner will not be permitted to charge rent for someone to live there. The measures would not necessarily change the criteria by which a property could fail inspection; instead, they are intended to make it easier for the city to actually enforce the current inspection laws.
Landlord
s aren’t happy, of course — especially because the city may also gain the ability to get warrants to inspect a house based on neighbor complaints. Several local landlords are already intending to fight the legislation (according to an article in the January 26 issue of the Post-Gazette), and it seems likely that others will follow suit.

While on the surface these new measures from Peduto seem to be a great boon to students — new enforcement of a higher standard of living can’t be bad, right? — there are some issues that might complicate things. The biggest of these is that landlords might start cracking down on their tenants and requiring a higher level of upkeep of rented property, therefore shifting the onus of preparing for these inspections onto students. Another possibility is that landlords may just opt to increase rent to make up for the cost of keeping a closer eye on their property. As many students living off campus already know, rent in these areas is already bordering on absurdly high.

Peduto has made a habit of being concerned with students’ rights, and this legislation seems like a great idea with a few possible pitfalls. Now might be a good time to start making sure your house is up to snuff, and making your landlord do something about it if it isn’t.