Information Regarding New Massachusetts Apartment Rental Inspection Program

By John M. Wilusz on September 23, 2013

According to the Boston Redevelopment Authority, there were over 150,000 students in Boston in 2010. Three years later, that number is likely higher. All of those students need places to live, and the City of Boston does its best to make sure the apartment units rented by students are safe for occupants and their guests. As part of that effort, and as you may have read, the City initiated a Rental Inspection Program pursuant to City of Boston Code Ordinance CBC 9-1.3. With a small number of exceptions, that Ordinance requires most rental units - not just those leased to students - be registered annually with the Inspectional Services Department, with inspections performed on a five-year cycle. The inspections, set to begin in January of 2014, are aimed at ensuring compliance with inspection guidelines like the State Sanitary Code, which establishes standards of fitness for human habitation. Under the Ordinance, all rental units are to be registered with the City, and all registered units are to be inspected within five years (with "Problem Properties" that have had frequent police responses or past inspection violations being reviewed first). The City plans to perform inspections of roughly 20% of the registered apartments every year on a five-year cycle.

Many property owners have resisted this initiative, citing the burden of a $25 registration fee per unit, while questioning the effectiveness of the effort. Initial reports of registrations as of the August 31, 2013 deadline seem to be low, even in the face of hefty fines for failure to register. Residents can search through a list of registered apartments here to see if their unit has been inspected by the City.

Each fall, Boston sees this large influx of students, and there is an inevitable wave of stories regarding apartment-related accidents or injuries that follow. Just this past week, for example, we heard of two such incidents: a teen injured in a fall at a local fraternity building, and the roughly dozens of individuals injured in the collapse of an apartment deck on Mission Hill. Though not all of these accidents will be prevented by inspections, and the ultimate impact of the inspection effort remains to be seen, it is likely that the City's increased enforcement efforts will encourage property managers and owners to make their units safer through compliance with the Sanitary Code.

It is reassuring to know that the City is taking action to lessen injury to its residents through compliance with these regulations and guidelines. In addition to complying with the Sanitary Code, landlords, property managers, and property owners have other obligations to tenants and those lawfully on the property. Those obligations include the duty to make sure premises are free from certain dangers and defects. Someone injured as a result of such a danger or defect may have a cause of action against the landlord, property manager, or owner.

The attorneys at SUGARMAN have significant experience with cases in this area of the law. If you have been injured as a result of a dangerous condition in an apartment or rental unit, we may be able to assist you. Please fill out a Contact Form, call us at (617) 542-1000 or e-mail info@sugarman.com.