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GBREB Testifies in Opposition to New Rental Registration Ordinance

The Boston City Council is considering a new law that would require owners of rental property in Boston, to register with the city, pay an annual fee per rental unit, and be subject to regular property inspections.  The proposed rental registration ordinance, introduced by Mayor  Thomas Menino,  would also capture individual condominium units currently rented.  Last week, GBREB officials attended a public hearing before the Boston City Council to oppose the measure.   GBREB CEO Greg Vasil was among those on hand to testify against the proposal, along with many others as reported in the Boston Globe.

However well-intended the existing rental inspection ordinance and proposed revisions to it may be, it is the position of GBREB that the measure will not address the most significant issues being confronted by inspectors with the Inspectional Services Department (ISD) – namely pest infestation, illegal apartments, and criminal activity. 

The proposed ordinance seeks to impose several new requirements, the specifics of which are summarized below:

1) Owners would be required to file a registration form which identifies the name of the owner and the property address. The owner would also be required to post their name, address and phone number on the mailbox at the property. In cases where the property is owned by a trust, corporation, or other legal entity, the ordinance would require the name of the president or trustee of that entity to be posted on the property with their address and phone number. In addition, if there is a managing agent, that person’s name, address and phone number must be posted. If the owner resides outside of Massachusetts, a “Boston based” resident agent has to be designated to accept service of process.  

(2) Along with providing this information, as part of the registration process, the owner must attest and affirm that they are familiar with their obligations both under the relevant housing codes and fair housing and other housing related laws.

(3) The registrations must be filed annually along with a filing fee of $25 per apartment, with a cap of $5,000 per building and $10,000 per complex. There is no limitation on the manner in which the registration database may be employed.

(4) The Ordinance also contains an inspection system which would require most owners to have their properties inspected once every three (3) years. The inspections may either be performed by ISD inspectors or by other “Authorized Inspectors” approved by ISD. The inspections must include a sworn statement from the inspector that the unit met all relevant codes and be filed with ISD. ISD then has the right to audit 10-20% of the inspections. An owner is exempt from the inspection requirement if the property is an owner-occupied three-unit property or if the property is subsidized and subject to annual inspections as part of the subsidy program. An owner may also apply for an exemption to the inspection requirement. The exemption is at the discretion of the Commissioner of ISD and is to be based on the following factors: (a) history of the owner’s property management and a management plan submitted for the property; (b) history of code compliance; (c) site visit by ISD; (d) history of compliance with the Problem Property Ordinance. The exemption, if granted, may be revoked in the event if any housing code issues arise.  

(5) In cases where any inspection discloses violations, the owner must resolve same and also file a management plan demonstrating the manner in which the issues will be resolve and maintained. An inspection fee of $50 per unit is to be assessed, with an addition $50 due if more than two (2) inspections are required for a unit to be passed. Owners utilizing Authorized Inspectors are able to negotiate a lower price, if available.

(6) The Ordinance establishes a “Chronic Offender Point System” by which each violation noted by ISD results in the assignment of a specific number of points. In the event the points exceed the maximum allowed, based on the size of the property, the property is subject to fines of $300 for each successive point.

This issue remains before the Committee On Government Operations.  Please watch your email for further updates via the GBAR Informer e-newsletter and alerts from the GBREB Government Affairs Department.