Five or More, Apartment Inspections

The City of Boston has a zoning ordinance that prohibits five or more unrelated full-time undergraduate students from living together in a house or apartment. If the Boston Inspectional Services Department (ISD) visits your apartment, we encourage to comply with any inspection requests. Students will not be penalized for violations of the ordinance, only landlords. Furthermore, landlords cannot evict or otherwise remove student tenants from the apartment to comply with the ordinance. For more information about the Boston zoning ordinance, please visit the City of Boston Inspectional Services website

For common questions about rights and responsibilities, please see the bullet list below:
  • Students have the right to refuse the inspection. Example: ISD shows up at 24 South Street next Wednesday, the students refuse them access, that’s fine. A notice will be sent to the property owner that the occupant(s) refused the inspection and a plan will be put in place for next steps in the coming months for a future inspection. 
  • If, during these inspections, ISD discovers a violation of the zoning code, the burden will fall upon the property owner, not the students. A violation will be issued to the property owner, and copies of the violation will be given to the students and their respective colleges/universities. 
  • When a violation is issued to the property owner, s/he cannot retaliate against the students by evicting them in an effort to resolve the violation. Example: 6 undergrads are living at 24 South Street, ISD serves the property owner a violation, s/he cannot evict 2 of those students in an effort to fix the problem. It is against the law for property owners to retaliate against the students for any reason whatsoever.
  • If a student feels their landlord is retaliating, ISD would refer them to Greater Boston Legal Services for assistance. Their main number is 617-371-1234.

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