Before you rent, or even if you already are renting, become familiar with your rights and the resources available to assist you.
Boston’s Rental Relief Fund – These are federal funds designated to help Boston residents who have been economically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and are having difficulty paying their rent. The Rental Relief Fund provides up to $15,000 in rental and utility assistance for income eligible households for up to 12 months. Eligible households can receive assistance for both back rent and rent going forward.
View helpful resources including an eligibility chart, FAQ’s and Tenant Resources. While full-time college and graduate students do not qualify, this program can be utilized by part-time students who are/were economically impacted by COVID-19 and need help paying their rent and/or utilities.
Research your Apartment
You can research your new apartment or an apartment you are interested in to get a comprehensive background report on the property owner, property, landlords and property managers. We recommend these three tools:
RentSmart Boston is a free resource that compiles data from BOS:311 and the City’s Inspectional Services Division to give prospective tenants a more complete picture of the apartments they are considering renting. The tool prompts users for an address and generates a report to assist prospective tenants in understanding any previous issues with the property, including:
- Housing violations
- Building violations
- Enforcement violations
- Housing complaints
- Sanitation requests and/or
- Civic maintenance requests
Find out if your apartment is a “Problem Property”. The City of Boston maintains a list of problem properties which you can view here. How does a property become a “problem property”? The Problem Property Task Force looks into details such as:
- Outstanding violations related to the building, housing, and sanitary codes
- The number of calls to the City’s public safety agencies, and
- City incident reports written about the property over the past 12 months.
A property stays on the list until its owner addresses the outstanding issues.
MySmart Renter “Safer, Smarter Renting”. This service provides off-campus students/parents the opportunity to instantly, confidentially see/screen a prospective landlord’s background (authorization not required) before they apply or disclose any information as a safety precaution to guard against rental scams and unlawful landlords. Our comprehensive easy to read report empowers the renter with the information they need to make a well-informed decision. Northeastern students receive a 40% discount on our “Know it all” report using code “nesmart40”.
Use this mass.gov site to verify a realtor!
ReviewMyLandlord is a free resource that allows you to read reviews and write your own on a landlord and property.
- City of Boston Website
- Need to report a non-emergency? Use BOS:311! Dial 3-1-1 or download the BOS:311 app
- City of Boston – Guide to Renting
- Boston’s Office of Housing Stability
- Mass.gov – Renting in Massachusetts
- Greater Boston Real Estate Board, 617-423-8700
- MA Commission Against Discrimination, (617) 994-6000
- Department of Public Health Services, 617-624-6000
- Better Business Bureau, 508-652-4800
Inspectional Services Department Protects and improves the quality of life for all Boston residents by enforcing building, housing, health, sanitation and safety regulations mandated by the City. 617-635-5300
Consumer Affairs – College Student Tenant Guide
Office of Housing Stability – Provides advice, information and assistance to Boston landlords and tenants who have problems or questions about rental housing. Call for urgent matters 617-635-4200 or send non-urgent inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Attend Virtual Walk In Hours and Clinics held weekly.
Boston’s Rental Relief Fund – Federal funds designated to help Boston residents who have been economically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and are having difficulty paying their rent.
Top 10 Things for Student Renters to Know (City of Boston) Flyer
Boston Bar Lawyer Referral Service – Boston Bar Lawyer Referral Service is a convenient resource that gives you 24/7 access to panels of qualified lawyers, where you can compare attorney profiles, filter by geographic region, topic of legal need, and get matched with an appropriate lawyer. (617)-742-0625, E-mail: email@example.com
Greater Boston Legal Services provides free legal assistance and representation on civil (noncriminal) matters to low-income residents in the city of Boston and 31 surrounding cities and towns. (617) 371-1234
MA Bar Association Lawyer Referral Program – The Dial-A-Lawyer program encourages members of the public to call with their legal problems and questions. This program was created in order to assist the people of Massachusetts that have fallen through the cracks of the legal and criminal justice system. On the first Wednesday of each month, volunteer attorneys give free, basic legal information by phone from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Dial-a-Lawyer Program: (617) 338-0610 or toll-free (877) 686-0711
MA Legal Answers Online – Mass Legal Answers Online is a website where low income Massachusetts residents can post their civil (non criminal) legal question. Volunteer attorneys will answer the question through the same website
MA Legal Help – Provides information about tenants’ rights in Massachusetts. You will find self-help forms, sample letters, booklets, handbooks, and frequently asked questions.
Small Claims Court – Learn more about how to file, what to do if you receive a summons, and how to prepare for your court date.
Small Claims Advisory Service (SCAS)- Information about Massachusetts small claims court, relevant laws for case resolution, and contact information to receive further help from SCAS staff.
Suffolk University Law School : Are You Being Discriminated Against? – Intake Line: (617) 884-7568
Volunteer Lawyers Project – Monday-Friday, 9am-12pm, www.masslrf.org, (617) 603-1700
Resources for Cities Surrounding Boston
E-mail: Dr. Swannie Jett, DrPH, MSc, Director of Health and Human Services
11 Pierce Street, Brookline, MA 02445
Cambridge – Submit a Service Request
Inspectional Services – Housing Inspections
831 Massachusetts Ave., 1st Floor, Cambridge, MA 02139
Malden – Submit a Service Request
Board of Health
110 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148
Phone: (781) 397-7049
Quincy – Constituent Services and Service Requests
Good Neighbor Tips
Inspectional Services, Jay Duca, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
55 Sea St., Quincy, MA 02171
Somerville – Submit a Service Request
Goran Smiljic, Superintendent of Inspectional Services, Email: email@example.com
1 Franey St., Somerville MA 02145
(617) 625-6600 ext 5600
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Boston, MA 02115
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