New Regulations for Rental Units Outlined in Talk

Last week the Boston Inspectional Services Department (ISD) held an educational seminar for landlords in Boston regarding the new ordinance that aims to make the rental housing market in safer, cleaner and healthier by conducting regular inspections of rental apartments every five years.

Beginning on May 1, 2013 the new ordinance will cover about 140,000, or more than 85 percent of the city’s approximately 167,800 rental units. Over the next five years, every unit covered under the ordinance will receive an approved inspection or be covered by an ISD-approved alternative compliance plan. The city will tackle inspections of units owned by landlords with a history of non-compliance in the first year.

“There is an opportunity for the city to educate landlords on state and municipal health codes,” said City Councilor Sal LaMattina who voted in favor of the ordinance in December. “It will also help tenants by making sure they have apartments that are clean and safe and up to code. It will also help the community by holding landlords accountable by improving the quality of housing in neighborhoods.”

Last week’s informational seminar discussed how landlords can register their apartments and provided them with an outline of the process, fees and a checklist of what ISD will be looking for during an inspection.

“Landlords must be held responsible when it comes to providing safe and healthy housing for their tenants,” said Mayor Thomas Menino who signed the ordinance on December 28. “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 measure does not seek to punish responsible landlords and alternative compliance methods for owners with a good history of rental housing ownership will be made available by the city.

The ordinance will also create a fair and predictable five-year inspection cycle that prioritizes “problem properties”.

Small property owners with inspection exemptions will be regularly provided. There will be educational and self-help tools to ensure code compliance made available by ISD.

The ordinance also establishes 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 enforcement measures.

On the other hand, property owners here 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.

Also, owners of newly-acquired housing units will be able to request a grace period for compliance, provided they submit an acceptable compliance plan.

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