Inspection Ordinance Brings Sweeping Change to Rental Housing Standards in Boston
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For Immediate Release
December 19, 2012
Released By:
Mayor's Office
For More Information Contact:
Mayor's Press Office
Press.Office@cityofboston.gov

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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