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Boston City Council Approves New Rental Inspection Requirements and Fines for Problem Property Landlords

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Boston City Council voted 9-4 to approve a new Rental Inspection Ordinance requiring apartment rental units to be inspected every five years including a $300 fine for problem properties and a “chronic offender registry.” The ordinance includes condominium properties but exempts buildings with 6 or fewer rental units as long as the building owner lives in one of the units. Rental properties will be required to post the landlord’s name and address on the interior near the mailboxes.

The ordinance met with resistance from real estate companies, but Mayor Thomas Menino has come out in support of the ordinance and said he will sign it into law on Friday, December 21, 2012.The vote was held at the City Council meeting on Wednesday, December 19, 2012.

City Councilor Sal LaMattina (North End, Charlestown, East Boston) voted in favor of the ordinance. Councilors voting against it included Michael Ross, Frank Baker, Bill Linehan and John Connolly. The city is expected to employ 11 new employees for the  inspection program in the Inspectional Services Department.

View the full text of the Rental Control Ordinance (pdf). A press release from the Mayor’s Office is shown below with more details.

 

Inspection Ordinance Brings Sweeping Change to Rental Housing Standards in Boston

The City of Boston’s Rental Inspection Ordinance, revised to enhance current standards for the health and safety of rental housing in Boston, was today approved by the Boston City Council in a 9-4 vote.

The Ordinance will cover about 140,000, or more than 85 percent of Boston’s approximately 167,800 rental units, and require that Boston landlords can be easily identified and held accountable when they fail to provide safe and decent housing for tenants. Over the next five years, every unit covered under the Ordinance will receive an approved inspection or be covered by an Inspectional Services-approved alternative compliance plan. The City will tackle inspections of units owned by landlords with a history of non-compliance in the first year.

“Landlords must be held responsible when it comes to providing safe and healthy housing for their tenants,” Mayor Thomas M. Menino said. “This ordinance creates a proactive rental inspection process that allows the City to work with property owners to improve quality of life for residents.”

The revised ordinance will encourage preventative maintenance and create a fair and predictable five-year inspection cycle that prioritizes “problem properties” and provides an alternative compliance method for owners with a good history of rental housing ownership. Small property owners with inspection exemptions will be regularly provided educational and self-help tools to ensure code compliance.

“Boston can now be held up as a national leader in rental inspection requirements,” Chief of Environment and Energy Brian Swett said. “Tenants shouldn’t have to complain to the City in order to ensure that their units meet minimum health and safety standards. This revised ordinance allows us to proactively manage issues before they become hazardous to occupants.”

The Ordinance will:

· Require annual registration of all rental units.

· Require owners in non-owner/occupied buildings to visibly post contact information.

· Require an inspection once every five years by: an Inspectional Services Housing Inspector, a Section 8 Inspector or an Inspectional Services Department (ISD) trained and approved private inspector.

· Establish a publicly available “Chronic Offender Registry” for landlords who regularly fail to correct problems. Those on the Chronic Offender Registry are subject to fines of $300 and other applicable enforcement measures.

· Prioritize problem properties by placing them first on the list for inspection. “Problem properties” include those with poor inspection records, significant court records and complaints, or placement on the City of Boston’s “Problem Property Task Force” list.

Property owners who demonstrate that their units exceed standards, provide an acceptable management plan and have a good history of compliance will be granted the ability to request an alternative compliance plan. Additionally, owners of newly-acquired housing units will be able to request a grace period for compliance, provided they submit an acceptable compliance plan.

The previous Rental Inspection Ordinance relied on property owners reporting turnovers to the city and requesting inspections within 45 days of turnover of a non-exempt unit. The ordinance lacked a proactive trigger to ensure that long-term tenants have safe and healthy housing. As a result, 98 percent of the more than 20,000 annual ISD housing inspections are currently in response to complaints. The revised ordinance will allow the ISD to work with property owners to meet code requirements and ensure safe, healthy rental units for Boston’s residents.

Under the Ordinance, inspection fees remain the same, and filing fees have been reduced for large and small rental property owners.

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Leave a comment on this post:

Pal says:

If anyone has ever dealt with any inspectors from any city agancy you would know this should be complaint based only and not involve the good landlords who will be penalized with excess costs on top of outrageously high taxes and more bureaucracy.

Mathew Ames says:

This is much needed. Good move by the city.

It is a BIG red flag for any landlord that has a problem with this. I look forward to seeing the list and sharing with my clients!

John Levensen says:

I believe I read somewhere that building with less than 5 units are exempt…but not sure.

Matt Conti says:

I added the full text of the rental control ordinance and some more information to the post. Buildings with 6 or fewer rental units are exempt, as long as one is occupied by the owner.

Jon says:

This is going to exclude a ton of buildings in the North End

NO. END LANDLORD says:

What do you mean it is going to exclude a ton of buildings in the No. End. Do you know how many slumlords are down here and illegal apts, and deplorable living conditions. It is frightening.

Dino says:

While your comment may be correct regarding the conditions of certain buildings, the writer was simply stating that it will exclude building with less than 6 rental units.

Lets say there is a building with 20 units and its 80% owner occupied. That would mean that 16 of the units are lived in by the owners. Only 4 are rental. In this situation the building would be except if I am interpreting the language correctly. I don’t know if this qualifies as a “ton” but I imagine there are a handful that are exempt because of it.

I believe that large banks require 80% owner occupancy for the mortgage exception, so a lot of mixed rental/condo buildings could be affected by this requirement.

Pal says:

Good Luck with looking for an exemption! This is more city control in the way of city income and hack jobs.
Once again the responsible people have no say, no breaks and no exemptions. I am a very small landlord and homeowner(condo) who pays and can barely afford more than $75,000 a year in property taxes!
Merry Christmas from Mayor Menino!

John Levensen says:

“Small property owners with inspection exemptions will be regularly provided educational and self-help tools to ensure code compliance.”

Anyone know how a landlord qualifies as being exempt?

NO. END LANDLORD says:

I think this is one of the best things the City of Boston
ever did. There might be more slumlords than landlords
in the No. End, and it is about time the City is finally
going to catch up with them. There are so many
illegal basement apts. rented out and not to mention
the deplorable conditions of those apts. that are not
basement apts. It is positively frightening as to what
is going on in the North End. The Trash Ordinance
isn’t that effective, but hopefully the Nuisance Ordinance,
and this new Ordinance regarding property owners
will be.

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