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Boston to landlords: Deadline to register rental property won't be extended again

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  August 29, 2013 11:20 AM

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Boston officials announced this week that they will not offer any further extensions to the deadline for a new ordinance requiring property owners to register their rental units with the city.

After the Aug. 31 deadline, the city will start handing out fines of $300 per month to landlords who have not complied. Those landlords will also be assessed a one-point penalty in a new ‘chronic offender’ database managed by the city.

During the first month after the deadline, the city plans to focus its punitive efforts on unregistered “problem properties and landlords with histories of code violations and noncompliance,” said a letterWednesday from Brian R. Swett, head of the city’s Environmental and Energy Services Cabinet, which oversees the city’s Inspectional Services Department, the agency in charge of implementing the new ordinance.

The Globe reported this week that many property owners are upset with the new ordinance, which along with the registration requirement, calls for the city to require more rental property inspections starting in January.

Landlords have said they are not happy with the extra cost and time involved with the planned inspections and with registering their units. Landlords must pay the city a $25 first-time registration fee this year and $15 annual renewal fee for each unit in subsequent years.

As of the start of this week, about 40,000 units had been added to the registry, less than 30 percent of the estimated total.

Swett said the department will continue its outreach to landlords to inform them about the new rental registration requirement and to help them through the registration process.

City officials have said registration has picked up in the final days before the deadline.

But, unlike earlier this summer when the city extended the initial deadline of July 31 by one month, officials will not give landlords any more time beyond Saturday.

“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 wrote in the letter sent on behalf of Mayor Thomas M. Menino to city councilors.

“As you are 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 added. “The registration and periodic inspection of rental units is critical to this cause.”

Swett said he and his staff will also focus, as they have in past years, on inspecting homes and rental properties during the busy move-in season around Sept. 1.

Though some landlords have expressed opposition to the new ordinance, Laura Bethard, who owns one rental unit on Wadsworth Street in Allston, said she supports it.

"I'm a landlord, and I don't see the fuss over $25 per year [for the first year and $15 for subsequent years] per apartment," said Bethard, who said she had problems registering her unit through the city's online platform, which municipal officials have admitted has caused some headaches. "It's no worse than the fee if your parking meter runs out of time. If you have 300 units, well - there is a certain cost of doing business. I'm not excited about new hoops to jump through, but if it will put some pressure on absentee landlords, I am all for it."

"I won't say that I don't find fees and inspections an extra hassle, but something has to be done," she added. "Getting quality tenants for our place is a challenge, because of the reputation Allston has."

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at mjrochele@gmail.com.
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