Inspectional Services Handed Out Thousands of Citations For Code Violations As Students Returned to the City

The number of tickets issued decreased when compared to previous years.

Photo via City of Boston

Photo via City of Boston

The amount of tickets for property violations issued to landlords over the move-in weekend, a time when thousands of students return to off-campus apartments around the city, was down significantly when compared to last year, and officials are giving the mayor’s office credit for the decrease in citations.

According to Lisa Timberlake, spokesperson for the city’s Inspectional Service Department, workers from several different divisions were out in full force over the holiday weekend, as swarms of college students cluttered the streets with moving vans, discarding unwanted goods and furniture along the city sidewalks, getting situated for the new school year.

While out roaming the streets, popping into apartments to make sure that landlords were complying with building standards, Timberlake said Code Enforcement officers doled out more than 2,000 citations, ranging from $25 to $2,000, to property owners. The citations were issued for violations like overloaded dumpsters, improper storage of trash and debris, and illegal dumping.

The code enforcement officers responded to 434 complaints, she said. Complaints are defined as when someone calls officers to a certain address, or flags them down.

The number of citations was down by half when compared to the same time period during the move-in weekend in 2012, she said, when officers issued 4,530 tickets. In 2011 the city wrote 5,275 tickets, and in 2010 more than 6,000 citations were given to landlords and building owners.

Timberlake said the decrease in tickets over the last three years, as students returned to Boston for the Fall semester, is likely due to the increased communication between property owners and city officials. “I think a lot of that success has to do with [Mayor Tom Menino] having us out in the neighborhoods more. We aren’t just doing tickets, we are out there educating property owners and landlords, as well as tenants,” she said. “We are giving the educational piece to the students as well.”

Besides code enforcement violations, the city’s Environmental Sanitation Division issued 50 citations to landlords for rodent infestations. The violations were mainly in Brighton, Allston, as well as Fenway, according to Timberlake.

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Inspectors from the Housing Division were also on the hunt for apartment compliance issues over the holiday weekend, searching for problems with smoke detectors, faulty carbon monoxide detectors, leaking ceilings, cracked walls, and other basic housing damages. During their inspections, officials wrote 50 violations to landlords in the Allston, Brighton, Mission Hill, Fenway, South Boston, and North End neighborhoods.

Timberlake said the Housing Division condemned three properties over the weekend, deeming the buildings “uninhabitable,” meaning “tenants were not allowed to stay there.”

Building Inspectors, a separate division of employees inspecting neighborhood properties, handed out over 20 violations, said Timberlake. Citations were issued for things like structural damages, porches that needed to be replaced, or fixed, and banisters that may have been missing from the steps of certain properties.

Despite the seemingly large amount of tickets written by the separate divisions over the Labor Day weekend, Timberlake said things have vastly improved over the years. “It is getting better. We have been doing this 21 years, and it’s a big difference from now and even ten years ago,” she said. “We do a lot of outreach so we think that has to do with it is as well. Property owners seem to get it a little more.”

The increased enforcement stemmed from Menino’s promise to hold more landlords accountable for how they keep their properties, especially those that are rented out to students returning for the school year.

Prior to the big move-in weekend, Menino addressed the community, during an appearance in Allston, and vowed to crack down this school year. “This isn’t an issue with the students. This is an issue with the…landlords,” Menino said Friday.

This year, officials also revised the Rental Inspection Ordinance to enhance current standards for the health and safety of rental housing. The revised ordinance covers more than 85 percent of the city’s rental units, and requires that landlords can be easily identified and held accountable when they fail to provide safe housing for tenants such as students. Menino’s administration is paying particular attention to past offenders, and landlords who have proved to be a problem when it comes to non-compliance. “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,” he said.