Housing code is constitutional and necessary

I am writing in response to Bob Collins’ assertions that a minimum housing code is unconstitutional [“Minimum Housing Code Is Unconstitutional,” Letters, Nov. 19]. He has obviously never been a renter faced with a landlord who refuses to fix a broken furnace in the middle of winter!

The purpose of the code is to ensure that renters who have paid money to live in a home have the right to minimum standards of a safe structure and timely maintenance. Claiming that a renter who has no heat is better off than someone living under a bridge is absurd; at least living under a bridge is free! If a renter cannot afford to pay their heating bill, that is altogether a different issue—not the responsibility or fault of the landlord.

A landlord is in the business of providing housing, not shanty shacks or cardboard lean-tos. Renters must have an outlet to report and complain of substandard living conditions and lease-agreement violations, because they are paying for a service, and consumer protections are absolutely constitutional. This is not an elitist policy concerned with property values; it is, in fact, protection for lower-income folks who have fewer options for housing and even less power to fight greedy or lazy landlords.

Landlords who respect the terms of a lease agreement have nothing to worry about. The law affords protections to landlords: If a renter destroys property or refuses to pay, landlords can legally evict the bad renter. Why shouldn’t renters have the same opportunity to have their grievances addressed over bad landlords? The housing code is exactly what this provides, and to say that it “will put citizens in fear of being evicted by code cops” is completely false. It will, however, make bad landlords fear the potential interruption of their income!

— Chantal Saunders

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