Golden Cockroach award a good first step

The first AMS Golden Cockroach was awarded to Phil Lam for being the worst Ghetto landlord based on nominations filed by current tenants. At the ceremony on Feb. 9, Lam’s student rental house on 288 Earl St. was highlighted as an example of the poor condition of Lam’s properties.

Lam subsequently sent a letter in response to this award, calling it slanderous. In his letter he wrote that “a student government, who prides itself on presumably being fair, should be ashamed of the actions it took against myself. It takes little courage to cast aspersions against a person based on anonymous complaints.” The complaints were not anonymous, but Lam says he is considering legal action. It must also be noted that in addition to recognizing bad landlords, the AMS also awarded Keystone Property Management with the key to the Ghetto for providing good housing to students.

Lam made the argument that “if the house was of such poor quality one, of course, has to ask why [renters] continue to live there.” This points to a long-held misconception by students that there is a housing shortage in the Ghetto, which, in fact, is not true. Students often feel they need to accept poor conditions for lack of choice, but this should not be the case. Students have a responsibility to thoroughly look into the conditions of houses before signing a lease and file complaints when problems arise. The poor condition of many properties in the Ghetto underlines the need for better enforcement of the city’s property standards by students, the AMS and the city. As well, the properties on the Queen’s Apartment and Housing Service website should not be listed based on the property but by landlord: just because some properties owned by one landlord may meet property standards does not mean that all of the landlord’s houses meet them. If some of a landlord’s homes are listed as approved on the website, students might wrongly infer that all of their properties are well-maintained.

The most important thing is that students stay as informed as possible about their rights as tenants and file complaints to ensure accountability on the part of landlords.

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