MA - Landlord - Board of Health and Tenants Stop Paying

4 Replies

Hi Experience Landlord of Massachusetts, 

I am in the process of acquiring yet another building. After the "Contract to Purchase" agreement, I discover that the property has some Board of Health issues. Also, some tenants have stopped paying since then. 

My question is: Is the tenants stop paying (or is it defer paying), once all the Board of Health issues/concern have been addressed, can I start collecting the defer payment?

Also, I am also concern that the Board of Health has eyes on this property, it is going to be tough getting them off my back. What should I watch out for and ask before the closing in addition to sustainability and management standpoint going forward?

FYI: I have been calling and building relationship the board of health inspector. She is every details oriented, and even failing thing like hole on the screen window ......etc.

Thank you ahead.


In our town, upstate New York, our health department issues a citation and gives us 30 days to fix the problem or as little as 2 weeks depending on the issue. The tenant is still obligated to pay the rent on time. We have evicted tenants using that excuse and had the judge sign the eviction papers.

Hi @Chan K.

To answer your questions, the tenants have the right to withhold rent until the repairs are made. They may or may not have the money set aside as there is no law that requires them to. Once all repairs are made, the tenant must pay all back rent. If they don't pay the landlord can evict them for non-payment of rent. Unless all this is resolved prior to closing, you will be inheriting this problem and the problem tenants. It sounds like you may have problems going forward with these tenants unless they are out before you buy the house. 

I know the BOH inspector personally. She is very thorough and knows her job and does it well. She does not arbitrarily monitor properties on an ongoing basis. Once you resolve all issues, her job is done. She only responds to properties when there is a complaint by a tenant/neighbor etc...she is definitely somebody you want on your side and as long as you work with her and communicate she can be a big help.

I had to work with her in the past in a similar situation with a tenant that I was evicting for non-payment of rent that called the BOH the next day. She explained the process and we worked through each issue then she signed off and that was the end of it. I then went to court and completed the eviction. The BOH complaint was never even mentioned in court.

One thing you can do going forward is to have her come in and inspect vacant apartments before you rent them. Once you do that, it's on file with the city that there are no BOH issues so if a tenant calls and complains you know they are the cause of the problem. 

Feel free to call me anytime if you have any questions or issues with tenants that I can help with Chan.

Good luck. 

Originally posted by @Rob Beland :

One thing you can do going forward is to have her come in and inspect vacant apartments before you rent them. Once you do that, it's on file with the city that there are no BOH issues so if a tenant calls and complains you know they are the cause of the problem. 

 That's a great tip, Rob.  I had that happen to me accidentally once.  

I bought a house that had been vacant for a few years, but was in decent shape.  As I started to get the property ready to rent, a City Inspector stopped by and spoke to the guys doing the work and left his card.  I was worried that he was going to cause delays or problems with the rehab and put off calling him for a couple of days.  When I finally called him, he set a time to meet me at the house.  My worry heightened.  

During the meet, he said he was glad someone was fixing the house -- apparently City Inspectors here have neighborhoods they patrol regularly and he was very familiar with the house.  He walked through the house with me and pointed out a few minor things I should be sure to fix.  He even mentioned a couple of things I had been worrying about and said they were not a problem -- or that I could fix them in an economical fashion that I assumed wouldn't pass the grade.  He was/is a great guy.  I was worried about nothing. 

He's my go to City Inspector now whenever I have an issue or question about anything.

Chan, it's always good to build a good relationship with people in those department.  If you close on the property, give her a call soon after.  Hopefully, it will go very smoothly for you.

@Rob Beland and @Randy E.

Thank you for your feedback

@Randy E.

I initiated the call to the inspector just find out more about the BOH concern. To my surprise she was very professional and pleasant to talk. I had like a 20 mins conversation with her, and she gave me a lot of tips about the property that I did not know about before. 

At this point, I know who is the trouble tenant and I have no obligation to keep him after 1-month for a month-to-month tenant at will.

@Rob Beland

I tried to negotiate the seller to evict all tenants, but he would not do it. So, I have to go through it myself and absorb the expenses if I want to close on the house. As much as I try to avoid going through the eviction process and have to deal with trouble tenants, I could not avoid it as I continue to grow. I will need your service when the time come to evict someone. Does the town allow non-owner or non-attorney to represent owner in court in addition to you filing the paperwork?

Yes Rob, based on her written report, I could tell that she is a very details oriented person and professional. Usually, the trait take their job very seriously.

Thank you for the excellent advise on getting the unit to inspect first by her prior to renting it out.

What struct me during my conversation with her is that she mentioned she only gets into the unit to do the inspection if the tenant in that unit calls her. I don't know if this the law or her way of doing it. I guess it was not a time/place to explore that details with her as it was our first phone call. For example, if Unit 3 calls her, she has not right to perform inspections on the rest of the Units. 

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