Shame on them: Embarrassment would make for better landlords

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Bad landlords give free enterprise a bad name. By operating rundown properties, inconsiderate landlords cheat their tenants of a decent place to live and steal from the community by bringing its real estate values down.

Councilman Bill Peduto believes the penalty for being a bad landlord in Pittsburgh is too low, so he has introduced legislation to post the names and phone numbers of the owners of the 10 worst properties, based on housing court data, on signs in front of the buildings. The idea is to shame the owners into fixing things up.

The Public Works Department would erect the signs identifying the owners of the properties, but the shaming would be done by neighbors who are subjected to the eyesores and would presumably call the landlords and demand improvements.

The tactic, which is used in other cities, was deployed here in the late 1990s against five nuisance properties. The program was dropped after the properties were demolished or improved. Mr. Peduto wants to bring back the big stick that was effective in the past.

Unfortunately, not all negligent landlords can be embarrassed into keeping up their properties, especially if they live out of town. But most care about their reputations and don't want to see their names associated with neighborhood blight. Being fingered as one of Pittsburgh's worst landlords is not a Top 10 worth making.

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