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City of Boston Rental Unit Registration Program

Updated: Jul 31, 2021




Being a real estate attorney and an elected member of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council, I am constantly confronted with new, real estate related topics and issues at both the neighborhood and city levels. At a recent neighborhood council meeting, two representatives of Boston’s Inspectional Services Department came to report on Boston’s Rental Registration Program, which was enacted in 2013. As I was not 100% familiar with this program, I thought this blog post could be a great opportunity to research and report on the program.


In short, the City of Boston requires that every owner register their rental property with the City every year by July 1 regardless if the unit is vacant, under construction or renovation, the owner does not charge rent for the unit and even if the tenants are relatives that are 18 years or older. Units do not have to be registered ONLY IF they are owned by City, State or Federal agencies, are units in an appropriately licensed rooming house, dorm or lodging house or are located in a property that is owner occupied with fewer than 6 units. Any owner that fails to register their unit is subject to a fine levied by the City of $300 per unit per month until the unit is registered. Rental registration forms are available on the City’s website and a single form can be used to register multiple units within a single location or building.


Registration fees, which should be made payable to the City of Boston, are $25 per unit for the first year and $15 per year thereafter. The maximum fee for units in a single building and complex are capped at $2,500 and $5,000 respectively. Moreover, there is a look-back period, such that a first time registrant must pay back-fees for every year in which they owned the unit from 2013.


Once registered, each unit is then subject to inspection by the City of Boston’s Inspectional Services Department to ensure compliance with state housing codes. Per City requirements, every rental unit must be inspected at least once every 5 years. When a unit is selected, the City will issue the owner a notice in the mail with instructions which must be completed by the owner and returned within 30 days. Inspections will occur only within the calendar year in which the propertyis selected by the City.


If selected for an inspection, an owner can elect to either have their unit inspected by a private, City approved inspector OR pay to have the unit inspected by a City housing inspector ($50 per unit for any property with 3 or fewer units or $75 per unit for any property with 4 or units). If a private inspector is chosen, a passing report must be filed with the City accompanied by a $15 filing fee for each unit report.


If you are an owner of a unit(s) that is in good standing with the City of Boston and has a good history of meeting state and City Housing codes and are current with all relevant licenses and certificates, you can petition to be inspected at the minimum frequency required (once every five years). More information can be found on the City’s website.