Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Promoting Tenant Safety

The states legislature's Joint Committee on the Judiciary will be hearing Senate Bill 1813, “An Act Requiring Landlord Notice of Unsafe Conditions” on Thursday, October 15th in State House Hearing Room A-1 at 1:00 pm. The legislation, sponsored by State Senate Assistant Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) and co-sponsored by Senator Susan Fargo (D-Lincoln), was filed in the wake of a tragic and fatal fire that destroyed the Lorraine Apartment building and a local synagogue in 2007 in Gloucester.

The intent of the bill is to protect tenants living in buildings which may have undisclosed and serious building code violations. “Building Codes are in place to protect health and safety, and a tenant deserves to know when that protection isn’t in place,” said Tarr.

The Senate bill would require a property owner to remedy a building code violation within 30 days of notification of its existence. Importantly, a property owner would be required to notify a prospective tenant of building code violations affecting health and safety prior to the signing of a lease, according to the provisions of the bill.

In addition, the bill would prescribe notice of building code violations involving health and safety in writing to tenants who could be affected by the violations every thirty days by the property owner responsible for the building with such violations. Failure to comply with the provisions of the bill would trigger penalties currently contained in the state’s Sanitary and Building Codes.

“People who could be seriously affected by major building code violations deserve to know the fact that they exist,” said Tarr. He added that “giving tenants this important and basic information will give them the power to protect themselves from potential tragedy.”