Landlords Beware: Four Unrelated Persons Equal A Rooming House

A recent Massachusetts case clarifies that when an apartment is rented to four or more unrelated individuals, the law will treat that apartment building as a rooming house, thereby subjecting it to a different set of regulations.

In this case, the City of Worcester sued a landlord who was leasing his apartments to groups of students.  Although the apartments were in fact large enough to accommodate the students under the state sanitary code, the city claimed that they constituted rooming houses and were therefore prohibited.  A Housing Court judge sided with the city and ordered the landlord to discontinue renting to more than four unrelated individuals.  On appeal, the Appeals Court upheld the Housing Court’s decision and found that a landlord who leases to four or more unrelated adults is in violation of the state’s lodging house statute.

Landlords should consequently beware that by subjecting themselves to the lodging house statute, they may be violating zoning regulations.  This could, in turn, expose a landlord to additional liability in the event that a neighbor were to complain as a result of a loud party or other disturbance occurring on the premises.

The case is entitled City of Worcester v. College Hill Properties, LLC, 80 Mass. App. Ct. 757 (2011) and can be accessed through the following link: http://masscases.com/cases/app/80/80massappct757.html.

Categories: Updates