Current law requires Boston landlords to arrange for a city housing inspection each time a rental unit turns over. The owners almost never comply. And why would they? It’s a poorly conceived, unenforceable ordinance that flies in the face of human nature. It’s the rare landlord who picks up a phone and invites city inspectors to come traipsing through the premises in search of violations of the state sanitary code.
The result, however, is an ugly, adversarial system that kicks into gear only when tenants call the Inspectional Services Department to complain about their living conditions. Worse still, city officials say that old people, immigrants, and students are often clueless about the complaint system or afraid to speak up. That could mean that hundreds or even thousands of apartments have fallen below minimum safety standards without the city’s knowledge.