Is the receptacle above the stairs the only one in the vicinity? If so, it isn't surprising that tenants are finding creative ways to get power elsewhere in the room. Can you convince the property management firm to add a few new receptacles? Maybe that would keep "creative wiring" such as this from reappearing in the future.
Brian, the other receptacle in this basement is located just about where I stood while taking the picture.
Still not enough. (I'm assuming this is residential property.) What will a tenant have in this basement room? TV? Stereo? Computer? Mini-fridge? Extra lamps? I wonder how many extension cords are typically used here.
This seems typical of rentals, though. The landlords don't want to spend money on upgrades (unless they can raise the rent), and tenants aren't going to pay for any needed updates, as they consider that to be the responsibility of the landlords.
How will the basement be used? That's the big question.
This place is well over 50 years old. In many areas, it does not comply with current codes. There's a ceiling, a coat of plaster on the walls, and a vinyl tile floor, so I suppose that makes it a 'finished basement,' therefore 'habitable,' so the 'six foot rule' ought to apply.
Oddly enough, the owner has another interest in keeping the basement simple. For a variety of other code reasons .... egress, stairway design, zoning, etc .... the room has been left alone, as a way to discourage its' being used as a bedroom. Indeed, that was the exact reason for the eviction of the prior tenants; they had turned the place into a dope/den, flop house for all their friends.
A note about the owners: they are in their 60's, and have done well in life. This, and a few other homes in the neighborhood, were their childhood homes. While they live in newer homes in town, they have lots of happy memories in this house.