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‘Out of control’: Two Boston city councilors want hefty fines for house parties amid COVID-19

"They're significant in size and they go till 3:30, 4:30, 5 in the morning. We're not New York."

Boston City Councilor Ed Flynn, as seen in November 2020 Erin Clark/Globe Staff

Two Boston city councilors want to pull the plug on house parties during COVID-19 as large, raucous gatherings are still raging, over a year into the pandemic, they say.

Councilors Ed Flynn and Michael Flaherty want officials to consider upping the penalties on landlords of party properties.

Under an order from Gov. Charlie Baker, those who violate the coronavirus protocols limiting indoor gatherings to 10 people or less may face a civil fine of $500, the councilors said Wednesday.

But the fine has apparently had little impact on discouraging house parties from taking place: Authorities received over 600 emergency calls reporting parties during a recent weekend in South Boston alone, according to Flynn and Flaherty.

“These parties, they’re significant in size and they go until 3:30, 4:30, 5 in the morning,” Flaherty told fellow councilors at a meeting Wednesday. “We’re not New York.”

Flynn, who called the party situation “out of control,” said the city should consider imposing $1,000 fines for a first offense, with $2,000 and $3,000 penalties for second and third offenses, respectively.

“Maybe these young people will get the hint that we mean business,” Flynn said.

Incessant house parties have been a challenge and concern for city officials for months, as residents feared the gatherings could potentially serve as super-spreader events.

In October, then-Mayor Marty Walsh pleaded for residents to quit throwing parties and vowed to crack down on those who continued to do so.

According to councilors, residents can report parties to the police, who in turn notify the city’s Inspectional Services Department to review and potentially place a residence on the city’s “problem properties” list. Owners are fined and are required to address the violations.

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Beyond the health risks, Flynn said the persistent parties pose quality of life issues for residents, particularly for seniors, people with disabilities, and children, who need a good night’s sleep to be productive students.

“It’s unconscionable that these young people continue to have parties and throw their trash on the ground, pizza boxes,” Flynn said. “[It] brings rodents, pest control issues, trash.”

Flaherty said officials have exhausted other avenues for trying to address the problem.

“We’ve tried sort of all the traditional, conventional means of having the community groups and civic associations and Inspectional Services and our police department meeting in discussing this,” Flaherty said. ” And I think that Councilor Flynn is on to, you know, let’s start to maybe target the landlords, in particular the absentee landlords, to get some accountability.

“They’re charging exorbitant rents from these tenants,” Flaherty continued. “Tenants probably think that because they’re paying those large rents, they can pretty much do whatever they want, when they want.”

Flaherty pondered the possibility of having rules stipulated in leases or similar contracts between landlords and tenants.

“Quite frankly, until folks start losing their first, last month’s [rent] and security [deposit], we’re probably not going to really get their attention,” he said.

The hearing order filed Wednesday was assigned to the Committee on City and Neighborhood Services for review.

Read the hearing order:

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