Boston Housing Code
Use the checklist below (or download a copy) to make sure the property you are renting is up to code. If the unit fails to meet any of these conditions, you have a legal right to demand that the landlord repair or improve the premises. Make sure you also understand your responsibility as a tenant.
- Sink—large enough to wash dishes, drains properly, and does not leak
- Lights—at least one wall outlet and one electric light fixture
- Adequate ventilation
- Stove and oven in good repair
- Toilet—free from leaks
- Sink or wash basin—free from leaks
- Bathtub or shower—free from leaks
- Lights—at least one electric light fixture
- Adequate ventilation
- Walls—four feet high and made of nonabsorbent, easily cleaned material such as tile
- Enough hot and cold water for ordinary use even when others in the building are using it (owner is responsible for hot water heating bills unless tenant signs a written agreement stating otherwise)
- Hot water heater in good working condition (must heat to at least 120°F/48°C)
- Adequate to keep every room at 68°F/20°C during the day and at 64°F/17°C at night between September 15 and June 15 (owner is responsible for heat and heating bills unless tenant signs a written agreement stating otherwise)
- Heating equipment in good working condition
- Space heaters, if any, properly vented to a chimney or duct leading to the outdoors
Electricity & Wiring
- Per room: two separate outlets or one outlet and one light fixture (except kitchen and bathroom, which must meet separate standards above)
- Electric light fixture in:
- No temporary wiring
- No wiring under rugs or passing through doorways
- Adequate ventilation (window or mechanical) for every room
- Two exits
- Smoke detectors
- Carbon monoxide detectors
- Landlord provides trashcans and covers if three or more families live in the building
Rats & Roaches
- No rats or roaches—landlord must exterminate when found in more than one apartment or when landlord’s improper maintenance is the cause
- Foundations—water-tight, rodent-proof, in good repair
- Floor—free of holes, cracks, or bulges
- Walls, ceilings, roof in good repair
- Watertight doors and windows with no draughts
- Staircases—stable, with hand rail
- Porch—with railing (if more than three feet off the ground)
- The Massachusetts Lead Law Opens in new window requires the deleading or control of lead hazards existing in homes built before 1978 where children under age six live
- Owners are responsible for complying with the Lead Law and paying to delead if children under age six are living in the unit
- Rodent-proof and insect-proof
- Unit in overall good repair
- Owner may not turn off water, heat, electricity, or gas, except during repairs
- In buildings with four or more apartments, a lock on every outside door and one self-closing, automatic-lock door with electric buzzer in the building’s entryway.
For in-depth information about the Housing Code, click here to visit the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s website.
Before you sign a lease, make sure that everything in the unit complies with the standards on the Housing Code Checklist. If repairs or improvements are required, make sure you get a statement from the landlord in writing that gives a specific date by which work on the unit will be completed.
If something happens after you move in, notify the landlord immediately. You must give the landlord a reasonable chance to make any necessary repairs (about ten days to respond to your request). In the event that the landlord does not respond or fails to make repairs, contact the Board of Health and request an inspection. The Board of Health is required to conduct an inspection within five business days of the request and will order the landlord to make repairs or improvements. Be sure to request a copy of the inspector’s report.
If the landlord still does not comply, you should contact a legal aid service for advice on how to proceed.
If you rent an apartment in Boston, the city now requires an inspection after a new tenant moves in. Contact the Boston Rental Housing Resource Center for more information.
To request a Board of Health inspection, contact:
- Boston Housing Inspection Department - 617.635.5322
- Cambridge Building Department - 617.349.6100
- Somerville Board of Health - 617.776.6120