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Lease Violation Information

office of residential life

How do I report violations of the State Code?

The first step in reporting a violation is to contact the landlord. The best approach is to write a letter requesting repairs and mail it to the landlord via certified mail. If the landlord fails to make an effort to address the problem within a "reasonable" length of time (approximately ten days), the next step is to request an inspection of the apartment by contacting your local health department or the city's inspectional services. In Boston (including Allston and Brighton), call Inspectional Services at 617-635-5300.

Make sure the inspector writes down all the violations. If one or more of the violations are certified by the inspector as endangering or materially impairing health or well-being, there may be an additional recourse if the matter is not corrected. The inspector must provide the tenant with a copy of the report and must specify a time period for the landlord to correct the violations. If the landlord does not correct serious violations of the state sanitary code, you may also file a petition in court against the landlord to enforce the state sanitary code.

How do I "repair and deduct"?

To legally "repair and deduct," the violations must be certified as potentially dangerous by the health department, the local housing or code inspection department, or a court. Your landlord must receive written notice of the violations from the agency making the certification.

Your landlord has ten days after receiving notice to begin the repairs him/herself, and twenty-one days after receiving notice to "substantially complete" them, unless the certifying agency requires the repairs to be made sooner. If he or she fails to meet either of the time deadlines, you can have the repairs made yourself. But you may deduct only up to four months' rent in any twelve-month period.

If, however, all the dangerous violations cannot be repaired with four month's rent, you can continue withholding rent as long as you can prove in court, if necessary, that the remaining violations are potentially dangerous. Additionally, your landlord cannot legally raise the rent to cover the cost of repairs you make using this procedure.