Crime watch meeting: Worcester landlords running illegal rooming houses

By Ron O’Clair

At the last Main South Alliance for Public Safety crime watch meeting the issue of landlords renting multi-bedroom apartments out to more then three unrelated tenants brings up the issue of running unlicensed rooming houses, as the State Law says that renting to more than three unrelated people to at least a second degree of kindred is against the law in an apartment, unless a rooming house license is obtained.

In order to get a rooming house license, these apartments have to comply with more codes than they would as an apartment. For instance, working sprinklers and fire alarms have to be installed in order to qualify for a rooming house license. There are currently no requirements to have sprinklers in Worcester apartment houses.

What is happening now is that landlords who own large rental properties with multiple bedrooms rent the rooms individually which leads to violation of the code when there are more than three unrelated individuals residing in the same apartment. This happens most frequently in neighborhoods surrounding one of our many colleges and universities. College students “room” together in an apartment they share and pay for. It’s usually three or four or more students per apartment. The landlords make a killing on the students.

These illegal rooming houses create problems with parking in the affected neighborhoods, as there are far more cars being parked in the neighborhood when several people occupy a unit that was designed for only one family.

Many other three decker owners resort to this practice when they have vacant apartments to rent, as they can get more money renting out single rooms to four people than they can get renting out the apartment to a single family.

Not many of these owners know about the law that states that renting out to more than three unrelated people is illegal.

Some of these owners are aware of the law, but choose to ignore it, and those are the ones that the City of Worcester has problems with. I believe there is a pending court action in regard to one of these cases as I write this, at least that is what I got from the meeting that I attended. City of Worcester Code Enforcement has the duty to ensure that landlords comply with the housing laws and take action when notified of these violations.

It is illegal to house more than three unrelated individuals in one apartment under current State of Massachusetts law.

Leave a Reply