Does Lodging House Law Apply to Student Apartments?
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has agreed to hear the City of Worcester v. College Hill Properties case which may significantly impact renting apartments to students and in other multi-family situations. The justices will decide whether renting to 4 or more unrelated persons in one apartment unit requires a special license under the Massachusetts lodging housing law, which would require fire sprinklers and other expensive upgrades. The SJC will hear oral arguments in the case on January 7, 2013.
The case arose at The College of the Holy Cross in Worcester where several landlords rented out apartments to groups of unrelated students. The Housing Court and Appeals Court had previously ruled that the landlords ran afoul of the lodging house law by renting to more than 3 unrelated persons in one rental unit without the special lodging house license.
Impact Outside College Towns?
Prior to the Appeal Court’s decision, housing authorities typically allowed 4 or more unrelated adults to occupy single apartments as roommates without a lodging license provided that minimum space requirements were met: 150 s.f. of living space for the first person, 100 s.f. for each additional person (3 occupants = 350 s.f. of living space); 70 s.f. of bedroom space for 1st person, plus 50 s.f. for additional person (120 s.f. for 2 persons in one bedroom).
In the City of Boston, a new zoning ordinance went into effect in 2008 prohibiting 5 or more undergraduate students from living in one apartment unit. We will see how the Boston Inspectional Services Dept. interprets the College Hill ruling.
The SJC’s decision will hopefully clarify this grey area of Massachusetts rental property law.