About 25 protestors gathered in front of Boston City Hall on Monday to demand a repeal to the ordinance that requires landlords both to register each property unit they own and also to have their properties inspected every five years.
The ordinance issued by the Inspectional Services Department of the City of Boston obliges landlords to pay a registration fee of $25 per unit for the first year of registration and $15 annually in the following years.
Skip Schloming, executive director of the Small Property Owners Association, said the ISD is notorious for being unorganized and that the program will fail.
“It is a massive inspection program that we think will fail even in its own goal, which is to catch unsafe apartments,” he said. “It’s way too big of a project for the city to do decently, and the ISD is terribly organized … landlords call all the time and won’t get a call back.”
Schloming said problem properties need to be targeted rather than having all properties inspected.
“What we think needs to be done is to have a targeting inspection program, and we think the city should have a housing safety SWAT team that is focused just on driving around and looking at house exteriors to find properties that they think will be a problem,” he said.
ISD officials could not be reached for comment by press time.
Joanna Connolly, a Newton resident who owns property in Boston, said she believes the ISD is the worst division of City Hall and that the ordinance will not address bad properties.
“As far as I know, the only time [the ISD] does anything is when tenants complain, but they don’t have any program where they themselves just go out and look at properties,” she said. “You can see from the outside if a house is not well-maintained, and that’s what they need to do — they need to get out of their offices and do some work.”
Bill Desimone, 68, resident of Cambridge, said the project is unfair and its only purpose is to raise revenue.
“The proposed inspectional [program] is intrusive, and it’s not going to help apartments that are under code,” he said. “It is revenue-raising, and it’s a clear invasion of the Fourth Amendment because it allows the city to go in and inspect. We already have laws on the books that can deal with this.”
Irma Bickerstaff, a member of the board of directors of the Small Property Owners Association, said the project is a fishing expedition and problem properties can be found by simply looking at the exterior of a house.
“Right now only 60 percent of the units are registered … that leaves 40 percent that are not, and these owners are maybe dodging [the registration] because they know that they won’t pass inspection,” she said. “I think Inspectional Services [should] send someone to go check those places out.”
Community organizer and mayoral candidate Bill Walczak came to the protest and said he agreed with the effort to repeal the ordinance.
“We know that there are problem properties in Boston and we can identify them,” he said. “I can identify the 10 problem properties in my neighborhood that are problematic. Let’s just deal with the problem properties. We’re going to get better results out of it. I support this effort to eliminate this rule because it’s unwarranted and unnecessary.”
City Councilor and mayoral candidate Charles Yancey was also in attendance to express his support to repeal the ordinance.
“We have to take another look at this — this should not be viewed as a revenue generator for the City of Boston,” he said. “All of us wants to guarantee the safety of all tenants … but why do we need this massive registration program to do it? Why not adopt a more targeted approach?”
Yancey said the program has been handled sloppily and government officials must be clear about their objectives for the program.
“This process is abysmal,” he said. “We must correct the record and the procedures and we must be very clear about what our objectives are. Our objective is not to punish property owners.”