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The DSU's housing board will aim to keep student renters informed. (Photo by Sima Sahar Zerehi)
The DSU’s housing board will aim to keep student renters informed. (Photo by Sima Sahar Zerehi)


The Dalhousie Student Union (DSU) is creating an online housing board, where students will be able to review their housing in an effort to stop preying landlords.

“Landlords take advantage of the fact that students are here for a short time and no one is ever going to know. To that extent we just wanted to create a place where students can document their good as well as their bad experiences,” says Ramz Aziz, VP internal of the DSU.

The housing board will be built as a feature on the DSU’s website and will allow students to advertise properties, provide background about their living experience and browse through posts using a map of the city, rental costs or amenities.

Aziz says the project was started as a response to the high number of students who were coming to them, as well as to the Dalhousie Legal Clinic, with complaints of being ripped off by unscrupulous landlords.

“In many cases the landlords were taking advantage of the fact that students were too busy to actually do anything significant,” says Aziz.

Aziz explains that even in cases where students took all the necessary steps to deal with their housing problems, some landlords still failed to make any changes.

Students would spend weeks or months filing a complaint to the province and appearing at the housing tribunal.  Even if they got a positive resolution from the tenancy board, they would find that landlords often refused to follow up on any of the board’s recommendations. Ultimately, many students would give up because of they don’t have the time or money to go after their landlord again by going to civil court, says Aziz.

The housing board would be particularly useful for students coming from other provinces or international students unfamiliar with Halifax rental prices.

“This would be almost like Rate My Prof.  It will build an institutional memory for Dal students,” says Aziz.

The website will be powered by content generated by students who can swap or trade properties.

In building the project, the student union researched similar sites at other universities including Queen’s, Waterloo, and Mount Allison.

While Mount Allison spent $15,000 building their housing system, the DSU is building its housing board for $1,500. The student union anticipates that the board will need ongoing staffing to moderate the site once it’s up and running, and they’ve budgeted for a part-time position at $400 a month.

The project is a few months from completion. The student union is still in the process of ironing out any possible legal kinks.

“It’s a huge legal risk on our part—these are students’ views—we moderate it of course but we have to be conscious of potential libel or the potential of comments that may be baseless.”

The housing board is scheduled to be running by May, with the possibility of smartphone apps as well.


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