Originally Posted by highwater
Keep in mind that rental licensing was first considered to address some of the specific problems in the areas around Mac and Mohawk that don't apply to apartment complexes and legal duplexes, etc. The tragic fire on Broadway that claimed 5 young lives due to a lack of working smoke detectors, is an example of the sorts of situations that are rampant in the student areas. Single-family homes are illegally converted. Students are stuffed into attics and basements with ceilings that are too low and windows too small (if they have windows at all) to qualify as legal living space under the city's current bylaws. There are no fire exits, many still have the old knob and tube wiring, and there's no means of proactively enforcing the presence of working smoke detectors. So the standards that landlords are being asked to meet are only the most basic standards of safety and legality. The risk of having a few holes kicked in the drywall doesn't quite compare to the risk many students take on when they live in these illegal residences.
Standards for housing are definitely needed to address the scenarios you've mentioned above.
You have two lines in your above, which I'm just going to quote: "Students are stuffed..." and "the risk many students take on when they live in these illegal residences".
These students, by the very nature of the fact that they are studying for degrees, are hopefully quite bright people and possessed of free will. They choose to live in these conditions, ignoring the illegality, cramped conditions and potential hazards from living in these houses - which they must be aware of. Why? Because these places are cheap!!
Regulating housing will have two effects:
1) The scenarios you've described above will, hopefully, be eliminated.
2) Rents will go up.
The latter may have a negative effect upon students' desire and ability to stay in certain areas. Perhaps, purely for the students, alternative sponsored housing is the answer, which could be purpose built and meet all the necessary health and safety requirements.
Once again, just to re-iterate, I'm all for housing regulations. I've been a landlord in London for four years now. In the UK, before you can rent out a property, you have to provide gas and electrical safety certificates that are no more than 12 and 24 months old respectively. You also have to provide smoke detectors that are working on the day the tenant moves in, however it is left to the tenant to regularly test these and report back to the landlord if any are faulty.