Re “How to avoid an apartment apocalypse” (Business, Aug. 1): Hanna Krueger’s article points out many valuable tips for a new or seasoned renter, including the requirement for a safe and habitable living environment as defined by the State Sanitary Code. However, based on years of teaching students, training inspectors, and conducting inspections of substandard apartments, I would like to add a few more common pitfalls.
For example, rooms without windows or with very small windows are often described as bedrooms. The Sanitary Code and related codes require that all habitable rooms, including bedrooms, have a minimum amount of natural light and ventilation based on the square footage of the room.
In addition, a room used for sleeping must have at least one window that is for emergency escape and rescue. Apartments in small attics or basements or those that have rooms with no windows may not be safe in the event of a fire or other emergency.
If the second means of egress is a fire escape or other exterior structure, it should be accessible and in sound condition. Massachusetts codes require that the landlord hire a professional engineer every five years to assess the condition of the fire escape and have repairs made before approving the structure. These certificates are filed at the local city or town hall and are publicly available.
I encourage all renters to critically look for basic safety conditions. If you are already living in a hazardous apartment, contact the local legal services agency for advice as to how to protect your rights as an occupant of an apartment that does not meet minimum safety standards.
The writer is an adjunct clinical instructor of environmental health at the Boston University School of Public Health.