College students are just days away from starting the Fall semester. In Boston and Cambridge, we urge students to make time for an extra lesson on safe housing. Make sure you understand your rights as a tenant and your landlord’s responsibility to maintain a safe property.
Boston and Cambridge have more than 40 colleges and universities. Because of a shortage in dorm space, many students end up in off-campus housing. Unfortunately, some find themselves dealing with unresponsive landlords who want to collect rent, without doing the work to maintain a property. If you are in this situation, it is important to remember that if a landlord is charging you rent, you have the right to a safe and sanitary apartment.
When a landlord is unresponsive and negligent, it can lead to many problems. It can result in sanitary issues, such as mold, rodents or a bug infestations. It can also lead to broken equipment (for instance, a broken smoke alarm, which needs to be addressed right away).
Porch collapses and fires are two of the most common and serious types of premises liability accidents. As a result of landlord negligence, over the past 10 years, five college students have died in off-campus fires in Massachusetts, according to the state’s website.
Our law firm has represented numerous tenants and students who have been injured by the negligence of landlords. Many of these cases have occurred in Allston and Brighton, which has the highest concentration of college students living in off-campus housing in Boston. But they can happen anywhere and we urge you to use caution before you sign your lease and unpack:
Safety tips for college students:
1) Check for smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Test to make sure they are working. Smoke alarms are required in every bedroom. Meanwhile, carbon monoxide alarms should be located on each level, according to the City of Boston website. This includes finished basements and cellars, but not crawl spaces and uninhabitable attics.
2) A note for parents. Parents, do not leave your college student until you see the smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms are properly working. If there is a problem, call the landlord or the city’s building inspection office. Another resource is the college housing office or student services.
3) Check exits. You should have at least two ways to exit an apartment. Make sure the landlord has not blocked off hallways or rooms which will prevent you from exiting safely.
4) Avoid these. Do not use candles or and do not smoke inside buildings. If you use a space heater, never leave it unattended. Take care when cooking.
5) Take photographs. On moving day, take photos of anything that appears out of place. Even if all looks fine, photograph your bedroom, the smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms, the kitchen and the doorways. Outside, photograph porches, fire escapes and paved walkways.
6) Be ready to call the building inspector. Keep the contact information for your local building department handy.
In Boston, you can call 311 and ask for the City Inspectional Services Department to come inspect your apartment. You can also visit its website.
In Cambridge, call the Housing Division of the Inspectional Services Department at 617-349-6100 or visit its website.
About Breakstone, White & Gluck
The Boston premises liability lawyers at Breakstone, White & Gluck have over 100 years combined experience representing tenants and others who have been injured on residential and commercial property. The Boston area has seen cases of landlord neglect, including in Cambridge, Somerville and Brookline. If you have been injured as a result, contact our attorneys for a free legal consultation at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.