You can now read 5 articles in a month for free on Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

State high court rules that Worcester college student apartments are not ‘lodging houses’

The state’s highest court has rejected an attempt by the city of Worcester to declare that apartments rented out to four college students were “lodgings” and fell under the state lodging house law.

“While we recognize that the city seeks to protect student safety, and apparently regards the apartments at issue here as being the equivalent of dormitories, such concerns are better addressed through enforcement of applicable zoning ordinances and provisions of the sanitary and fire safety codes,” the Supreme Judicial Court wrote in an opinion today.

Continue reading below

The court drew a distinction between tenants and lodgers in lodging houses.

Tenants have the “exclusive legal right to occupy and use the entirety of the property. The rooms within the apartment are not rooms ‘in the house of another,’” the court said.

“By contrast, a lodger occupies only a specific room or rooms within a house or apartment that is itself owned or rented by someone else,” the court said in a unanimous opinion written by Justice Barbara Lenk.

The city issued citations to owners of the two-family and three-family properties in November 2009, declaring that if four unrelated people or more lived in the units, the apartments were lodging houses.

In January 2010, after defendants failed to comply with the request to reduce the number of occupants to three, the city filed complaints in Housing Court. A Housing Court judge ordered the defendants to stop operating unlicensed lodging houses. The judge also found the property owners in contempt of the order.

The defendants appealed and found a sympathetic ear in the SJC.

“We conclude that the dwelling units are not lodgings and the properties are not lodging houses,” under state law, Lenk wrote in the case, City of Worcester v. College Hill Properties LLC.

Loading comments...
Want each day's news headlines delivered fresh to your
inbox every morning? Just connect with us
in one of the following ways:
Please enter a valid email will never post anything without asking.
Privacy Policy
Subscriber Log In

You have reached the limit of 5 free articles in a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of
Marketing image of