Boston Landlords: Only Days Remain to Comply With New “Rental Inspection and Registration” Ordinance

Rental Inspection ProgramBeginning August 31, 2013, landlords all over the City of Boston must register their rental units with the Inspectional Services Department, and comply with a mandated inspection and registration schedule.

Previously, most rental units in Boston were inspected only in the event of a housing complaint or in the midst of a tenant-landlord dispute over housing or safety conditions.  Under the recently-approved ordinance, every private rental unit in Boston must be registered by August 31, 2013.  The program was to begin August 1, but landlords will now have until Aug. 31, 2013, in order to come into compliance with the ordinance, after city officials decided to extend the deadline, according to the Boston Inspectional Services Department.

City of Boston Code Ordinance CBC 9-1.3 will require all private rental units to be registered on an annual basis and inspections will be conducted for non-exempt units on a 5-year cycle starting January 2014.  Relatively few rental units will qualify as “exempt” under the new law, but publicly-owned properties and owner-occupied residences with fewer than six units will be exempt.

Boston landlords should assume that they are non-exempt from the new law and act accordingly.  Non-compliant landlords will be subject to a fine of $300.00 per month, and will be assessed 1 point in a new “chronic offender” point system.

The full text of the new Rental Inspection Program is available for download and viewing.  The City has issued an outline of Homeowner Landlord Responsibilities as well as a page on Rental Inspection Program Frequently Asked Questions.  Homeowner landlords can register online, by mail, or in person at Inspectional Services Department, 1010 Massachusetts Avenue, 5th Floor, Boston, Massachusetts, 20118.

According to a recent article on Boston.com, only about 20% of the total estimated rental units in Boston have registered for the program.

Since the registration period began on May 1, only about 26,150 units have been registered with the city, said department spokeswoman Lisa Timberlake. That represents less than 20 percent of the estimated 140,000 total units that are required to register.

Landlords who fail to register will be subject to fines and other action from the city, officials said.

But, the city will likely use discretion in deciding whether to discipline landlords, according to Brian Swett, Boston’s Chief of Environment and Energy.

“We’ll have to make an assessment as we get closer to Aug. 31,” he said. “If there are folks who are willfully not registering their properties that’s different from someone who hasn’t been informed about this yet by our outreach.”

“We did anticipate that this would take some time,” added Swett. “To start from zero and get to as close to 140,000 as we can – that’s going to take some time. We never thought we’d be at 100 percent right away.”

He said that registrations have picked up significantly in recent weeks as word about the new program and its deadlines continues to spread.

About the Firm.  Vaughn-Martel Law represents both landlords and tenants throughout Massachusetts in landlord compliance, tenancy creation, eviction, and housing dispute resolution and litigation. If you have a question about the new ordinance, compliance, and the rights and obligations landlords or tenants in Massachusetts, we invite you to contact us.

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