City, News

City officials enforce ordinance with landlords on housing units

As the extended deadline for landlords to register their properties came to a close on Saturday, the Inspectional Services Department of the City of Boston focused its efforts on problem properties and landlords with a history of code violations and noncompliance.

Indira Alvarez, assistant commissioner of the housing division in the ISD, said the registration ordinance requires landlords to pay a registration fee of $25 per unit for the first year of registration and $15 in the following years.

“This ordinance allows the city to be proactive by ensuring rental units in Boston are up to code,” she said. “It will help us trace negligent property owners and allow us to provide a list of available city resources to bring properties up to code. By doing this, we hope to keep Boston’s housing stock safe and sanitary.”

Over Boston University’s move-in weekend, ISD handed out more than 2,000 citations to property owners, ranging from $25 to $2,000 dealing with issues such as overloaded dumpsters, illegal dumping and improper storage of trash and debris. This is a decrease from recent years  — officers issued 4,530 tickets during move-in weekend in 2012 and 5,275 tickets in 2010.

The City of Boston revised the Rental Inspection Ordinance on Dec. 19 to enhance current standards for the health and safety of rental housing in Boston, making this the first summer that the ordinance is being enforced as college students move into apartments, according to a press release issued by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino’s office.

“The Ordinance covers about 140,000, or more than 85 percent of Boston’s approximately 167,800 rental units, and requires that Boston landlords can be easily identified and held accountable when they fail to provide safe and decent housing for tenants,” the release stated.

Although the deadline for registration was extended from July 1 to Aug. 31, Brian Swett, the chief of Environmental and Energy Services, said in a letter on Thursday to Boston city councilors that officials are stressing that the extension is an exception and landlords are expected to register their properties by July 1 next year.

“Extending the deadline for registration for all landlords would only serve to delay an important enforcement tool for known problem properties and problem landlords as we continue our efforts to better ensure healthy and safe housing for all Boston renters,” Swett said.

He said the focus of the ISD’s housing inspection team for September is to enforce rental codes and ensure that all rental units are maintained properly.

“As you are all well aware, a fire in a rental property in Brighton earlier this year claimed the life of a Boston University student, serving as a clarion reminder as to why it is so important that rental units throughout the City are maintained in safe and healthy condition,” he said.

On April 28, BU senior Binland Lee died in a house fire in Allston due to smoking materials that were not properly disposed.

Menino was in Allston on Friday reiterating the importance of safe and healthy housing as more than 70,000 students moved into rental units.

“As summer winds down and we move into fall, our city comes alive as we welcome back thousands of students who attend our local colleges and universities,” Menino said in a Friday press release. “It’s so important for us to use this opportunity to educate students and their parents about their rights as tenants and their responsibility to be good neighbors.”

Even though the new ordinance was highly publicized, Alvarez said landlords’ reactions have varied.

“Many were in agreement with the ordinance because they felt owners would be more accountable in taking care of their properties, but whenever there is a major change in a system reactions are sometimes less positive than others,” she said. “In time, most will abide by the changes made.”


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