Utilities and Basic Services


A tenant can be required to pay for electricity and gas only if it is separately metered to his/her account and serves only his/her unit.18

The landlord is usually required to pay for water.19 However, under the water law that went into effect statewide on March 16, 2005, the landlord may bill the tenants separately for water only if all of the following requirements are met:

  • Landlord has installed sub-meters to measure the actual water used in each unit.

  • Landlord has had low-flow fixtures installed.

  • The tenant’s tenancy began on or after 3/16/05.

  • The previous tenant was not forced to vacate the unit.

  • There is a written agreement signed by the landlord and tenant that clearly states that the tenant is responsible for a separate water bill, and

  • The landlord has filed proper certification with the local Board of Health and the Inspectional Services Department.20

The landlord must pay for heat and hot water unless there is a written agreement to the contrary.21

Tenants are not responsible for lighting the common areas of the building except if they live in certain buildings of three units or less.22


In units that are heated by the landlord the heat must be on from September 15th through June 15th. The temperature must not be less than 68 degrees Fahrenheit between 7:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. and 64 degrees Fahrenheit between 11:01 p.m. and 6:59 a.m. There is a maximum allowable temperature of 78 degrees.23

Items in an Apartment

The landlord must provide a working stove and oven.24
The landlord must provide screens for each window in the units up to and including the fourth floor. They must be in place between April 1st and October 30th.25

The landlord is not required to provide a refrigerator, window blinds, shades, window safety bars or laundry facilities. However, if he does provide these services, he must maintain them in good working condition.

Window Guards

Although window guards are not required by law, landlords and tenants are encouraged to work together to ensure the safety of children. Contact the Boston Public Health Commission for information about the Childhood Injury Prevention Program.
Childhood Injury Prevention Program


The landlord must provide a working lock on every window as well as on the entry and exit doors to the unit.26 A lock fee may be charged for the entry door lock.


The landlord is responsible for removing or making safe any and all snow and ice on sidewalks, entryways and all exit areas from the building, including the walkway, stairs and curb ramps. In Boston, these paths must be cleared or made safe within three hours of the end of the snowfall between dawn and dusk for buildings containing more than six residential units, and within six hours for buildings containing fewer than six residential units.27
More Information on Snow Removal


In Boston, the landlords of buildings containing three or more units are responsible for proper disposal and collection of trash as follows:

  1. A landlord is required to provide sufficient barrels with lids for the storage of all refuse generated in a building of three or more units. The barrels must be made of either metal or durable plastic material. Residents may use plastic bags in addition to barrels, but they must be of at least two-ply strength, black, 32 gallons or less and tied securely. The landlord is not required to provide these plastic bags.

  2. Generally, trash should be put out for collection no earlier than 5:00 p.m. of the previous day, but every neighborhood has its own rules. Check with Code Enforcement to find out if there are any special rules for your neighborhood.

  3. Landlords are responsible to make sure areas around the building are kept clean and free from garbage, rubbish, or other refuse.28


  1. Curbside Recycling: The City of Boston offers a free curbside recycling program for all residents of Boston. You may mix all recyclable materials together in one large container. For the recycling schedule in your neighborhood, or to learn about recycling services available to residents of large apartment buildings, call the Waste Reduction Division at the Public Works Department at 617-635-7573 or visit their website.
    Waste Reduction

  2. Other Recycling Services:
    Seasonal Yard Waste Collection
    Drop-Off Recycling
    Paint and Motor Oil
    Free Paint Swap
    Household Hazardous Waste and Tire Drop-off
    Leaf & yard waste
    TVs and Computer Monitors

Fire Safety

Landlords are required to provide and maintain smoke detectors in the apartments and common areas of their residential buildings. The requirements for the types of smoke detectors vary depending upon when the residence was constructed. Some residences may require battery-operated detectors; others might need interconnected hard-wired detectors only or a combination of both. Others might need interconnected hard-wired detectors with battery backup.29

As of January 1, 2010, the State’s Smoke Alert Regulations mandate that single family homes and certain apartment buildings containing five or fewer units which are sold or transferred on or after January 1, 2010 must have detectors with both ionization and photoelectric technologies.30

The batteries in battery-operated smoke detectors should be tested frequently, and tenants would be well-advised to change the batteries when the clocks are changed for Daylight Savings Time.
Fire Prevention Division

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

The Massachusetts Fire Code requires carbon monoxide alarms in residential buildings which contain fossil fuel burning equipment or which have enclosed parking. In these buildings, the alarms must be located on each level of a dwelling unit including habitable portions of basements and attics. An alternative compliance option, which may be more practical for larger buildings, allows owners to target the carbon monoxide protection in areas which could be potential sources of carbon monoxide, with hard-wired detectors.31

18. 105 C.M.R. 410.354
19. DPH Formal Advisory Ruling, July 3, 1990
20. G.L. c.186, §22 (c), (d), (e)
21. 105 C.M.R. 410.190, 410.200, 410.354
22. 105 C.M.R. 410.254
23. 105 C.M.R. 410.201
24. 105 C.M.R. 410.100, 410.351
25. 105 C.M.R. 410.551, 410.553
26. 105 C.M.R. 410.480
27. C.B.C. Chapter XVI, Subsection 16.12.16
28. 105 CMR 410.602A
29. 780 C.M.R. State Building Code, 527 C.M.R. Board of Fire Prevention Regulations, G.L.c. 148 sections 26C, 26E
30. 527 C.M.R. 32.00 et seq
31. 527 C.M.R. 31.00