City Councilor Josh Zakim filed a request for a hearing to give Inspectional Services the power to enforce the No More Than Four law.
“ISD has identified roughly 600 apartments that probably are in violation but can’t get in to inspect the units,” Zakim said. This hearing is an opportunity for us to look into whether or not they have the right tools to inspect apartments.”
No More Than Four is a zoning amendment designed to combat overcrowding in student housing. The 2008 ordinance forbids more than four full-time college students from living in one apartment. It also requires universities to compile a masterlist of all of the off campus students’ addresses.
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The master list contains roughly 25,000 addresses from 29 colleges and universities. The ages of the students and the schools they attend do not impact the reach of the ordinance, however, part-time students and graduate students are clear of penalty.
But there are many holes in the ordinance. ISD workers are required to visit the addresses on the master list to check on possible code violations like missing or broken smoke/carbon detectors.
“So far, they haven’t been able to enforce the ordinance at all,” Zakim said. “They haven’t issued any citations. This clearly it’s not working, not at the fault of ISD, but of the language law.”
They are allowed to enter the common space, but cannot walk into the units if no one is home to let them in. Inspectors leave letters for the students stating when they will return if they suspect that there are over four undergrads or if there are visible code violations.
“From what we’ve heard from ISD and neighbors is student overcrowding in Allston/Brighton and Mission Hill,” Zakim said. “We need to see if we need to empower ISD more in order to maintain safe and clean housings.”
The citations go directly to the landlords, not to the renters.
“Landlords, good ones, follow the rules,” Zakim said. “Students are doing this without landlord’s knowledge. We want ISD to tell us what they need to properly enforce the ordinance.”