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Politics & Government

Pittsburgh Landlord Shame Law Passed

A bill that would use shame to try to get Pittsburgh landlords to clean up their properties is on its way to the mayor’s desk.  The final vote Tuesday came after the measure was amended twice--once to soften the legislation and once to make it a bit stronger. 

Councilmembers Bill Peduto and Natalia Rudiak were the lead sponsors of the bill that would authorize the Bureau of Building Inspection to put large red signs in front of the ten worst properties in the city, based on Housing Court convictions and building code violations. The signs would be slightly larger than stop signs, and would list the landlord's name, home address, and phone number.

Peduto said the city actually ran a pilot program of "Operation Red" in 1998, based on a similar law in a Massachusetts town.  He said the program was entirely effective in pushing five Pittsburgh property owners to fix the problems that earned them "scarlet letters."

During today’s council meeting, the bill was amended to allow the sign to be posted in front of the landowner's home, rather than his or her rental property.  The other amendment gives the councilmember in whose district the sign would be posted, the ability to stop it from being erected.

The budget allows the community to nominate properties. At no time can there be more than ten signs posted throughout the city.

In order to nominate a property in disrepair, citizens would have to petition their neighborhood, and then submit the gathered signatures to the Bureau of Building Inspection for consideration.

In addition to the bright red signs, Pittsburgh would also post the "Top Ten Worst Landlords" on its website and cable TV channel.

While the bill was originally being debated, Peduto said he didn't foresee any legal issues regarding the public posting of personal information.

"It's information that's taken directly out of the court cases," said Peduto. "They had due process. They were notified. There's even a notification period between the time that we tell them we're going to put the sign up and for them to fix the problems."

Councilman Ricky Burgess cast the lone no vote against the bill.