Boston Rental Inspections

The Boston city council has passed and recently upheld an ordinance that requires rental properties in the city to be inspected every few years whether or not a complaint has been made about the property. This seems to me like a gross invasion of privacy for tenants and an unwarranted increase in the size of the city government. I realize this is city of Boston issue but I have heard that other towns in the state might want to use the new Boston rental inspection ordinance as a blueprint for their own inspection schemes. I wonder if something could or should be done at the state level to make these types of inspections illegal. If I were still renting property in Boston I would not want government inspectors in my house without a reason.

9 replies on “Boston Rental Inspections”

  1. Hi Paul, I’m very sympathetic to the privacy issues. But with all the focus on under-maintained property in Boston right now, it’s hard to imagine us cutting back on inspection powers. If anything, we’re looking for ways to strengthen enforcement. Push back if you think I’m wrong.

  2. That sounds like the same rational the NSA uses to spy on all Americans. There are a few bad apples out there so therefore we need to spy on everyone.

    There is already an existing system in place to deal with problem properties. Tenants and/or neighbors can file a complaint to inspectional services and an investigation will be performed. At that time there is a reasonable justification to have an inspection carried out. I haven’t seen evidence that the majority of properties in Boston are “problem properties.” Ultimately I also think this is a waste of government resources which would better be spent on improving affordability of property in Boston.

  3. There are a large number of problem properties, and no, they do not get inspected. Probably a combination of tenants failing to report conditions, as well as inspection services being under resourced.

    The boost to inspectional services is greatly needed and long awaited. I look forward to seeing the slumlords squirm.

  4. I know from dealing with some of our (so) many absentee landlords what terrible, greedy property owners they are. I work with them or around them to clean up the outside of their properties, but I hear things from the tenants about the damage and neglect inside. They don’t call to complain because they don’t want their already exhorbitent rents raised. I would be thrilled to see more oversight on an urban blight: negligent, absentee landlords.

  5. I want to reiterate and stress a point that has been made by others: the existing system for inspecting properties about which complaints have been filed is insufficient, because often, tenants are complicit with landlords in violating housing regulations. This goes for both the condition of rental properties and for the number of people living in them. The Globe recently ran an extremely long expose about the poor condition of rental properties in Boston, and one of the things they stressed is that properties are often rented out to more tenants than the law allows, with the full knowledge of the tenants, landlords, property managers, and real-estate agents.

    Furthermore, there is the issue of low-income and/or undocumented tenants who can’t afford to make a fuss, either because they won’t be able to find another place to live is ISD condemns their current apartment, or because they fear bringing themselves to the attention of the authorities because of their undocumented status. Landlords should not be allowed to inflict unsafe housing on people in these circumstances.

    Inspecting a property whenever the tenant(s) change would be a reasonable approach if it weren’t for the fact that such a system would have to rely on the landlords reporting when their tenants change, and of course the Boston’s housing inventory is safe for its tenants is to inspect every rental unit on a regular schedule.

  6. There was a recent news article about landlord in Brighton(?) renting to international students at CAT Academy (I believe they are high school age, unlikely to complain as already mentioned by someone) in an unsafe building that Boston University sold due to structural problems. I believe it is mportant to inspect these places.

  7. I strongly disagree. I am a Boston landlord and support this effort. There is no right to privacy if you are offering your property for rent to the public. This is not having your personal domicile inspected. If you’re renting a property you are running a business, it’s no different from a restaurant, a hotel or a B&B. There is an obligation by the city to insure that these properties are legal and up to code. It’s a safety issue. The state require safety inspections of our automobiles on an annual basis, how is this different?

    Allowing these properties to remain as is affects not only the tenants but also the neighborhoods they are located in.

    All of my apartments are in good shape and are up to code. The amount of rent collected is more than sufficient to cover necessary repairs. If you can’t make money charging $2000 a month for a 2 bedroom apartment you are surely in the wrong business.

  8. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, a lot of substandard housing in a lot of areas doesn’t get complained about and doesn’t get inspected. And apparently now it’s necessary to wait for someone to be killed in a fire before the idea of inspections takes hold. I think there is a real distinction to be made between NSA sweeping up umpteen million phonecalls randomly and a city enforcing its safety codes.

    One option would be for the colleges and universities to take more responsibility for their students’ housing – not only increasing dormitory space but doing their own evaluations of property. (The recent information about some of Northeastern’s leases may make that suggestion inappropriate). However, that leaves out housing for non college related people.

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