City to crack down on crowded houses

Photo by Claire Murray | Photo Editor. Cars line 14th Street in South Side where Duquesne students live off campus.

Photo by Claire Murray | Photo Editor. Cars line 14th Street in South Side where Duquesne students live off campus.

By Brandon Addeo | The Duquesne Duke

South Side might be the next target of a citywide crackdown on houses with too many student tenants.

Several landlords in Oakland have been fined for violating the city’s occupancy limits, which allow up to three unrelated people to live in a single-family home.

Shaun Cusick, who rented a house on Parkview Avenue in Oakland to seven students at once, was fined $300,000 two weeks ago. Charles Eckenrode, a landlord of a house on Lawn Street in Oakland, was fined $270,000 for allowing six student tenants to live in one house.

City solicitor Lourdes Sánchez-Ridge said enforcing this code will be a “city-wide” matter, including enforcement in the South Side.

Sánchez-Ridge has asked for heavy fines to be brought against landlords who violate this code. She said this is to protect tenants from being exploited.

“We’re not trying to be vicious,” Sánchez-Ridge said. “There are a lot of landlords who are taking advantage of students, and that is the reason … why we take this so seriously.”

Sánchez-Ridge, who is the chief legal officer for the city, said this crackdown on tenants who violate building code is not a new initiative, but has come into focus because of procedural changes within the city’s law department of how these types of cases are prosecuted.

This may soon affect Duquesne students living in the South Side.

Junior physics major Kevin Norton lives on Wharton Street in South Side with three other students.

Norton said the house was originally a three-bedroom house, and a living room was converted into a fourth bedroom.

Norton said he and his three housemates signed the lease for the house with the understanding that the house would be considered a four-bedroom house.

Given the housing code law, Norton’s house may be considered overcrowded.

Norton said the current law regarding the number of occupants should be changed to be more flexible.

“As long as it’s okay with the landlord and [the number of tenants is reflected] on the lease … there should be allowed however many number of tenants that can legally live in a household,” Norton said.

Norton and his housemates do not regularly speak with their landlord, and at their landlord’s request carry out all their dealings regarding the house directly with the real estate agency.

Fourth-year pharmacy major Jimmy Edwards lives on Pius Street with three other housemates. Edwards currently lives in an attic which was converted into a fourth bedroom. He said he and his housemates will be moving out next year.
Edwards said his living arrangements are not an issue.

“Between the four of us, we live here very comfortably,” Edwards said. “There’s not a problem.”

While he admitted he could picture a situation where overcrowding could be a problem, Edwards said that if the building was big enough and the tenants were happy, he did not see why that would be an issue.

Norton shared the same opinion.

“As long as the landlord understands that … a certain amount of tenants are willing to live there, whether it’s shared rooms or changing [a room] into a bedroom, I think that should be perfectly legal,” Norton said.

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