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City Manager Proposes Changes to Worcester Rental Registry

By Tom Marino | April 8, 2024
Last Updated: April 8, 2024

WORCESTER – City Manager Eric Batista sent a proposal to the Worcester City Council to amend the ordinance for the Rental Property Registration Program and Residential Rental Unit Periodic Inpecti0n Program.

The proposal for amendment makes changes to the fines associated with non-compliance from $300 per day to double the applicable fees per month. For example, a property owner with three rental units which cost $15 each to register, or $45, would face fines $90 per each month the units were unregistered. The fees will not begin accruing until 30 days after a property owner receives a notice from the city reminding of the requirement to register.

The ordinance enables fine enforced through civil process, criminal process, or non-criminal process.

The changes leave the registration fees the same, with first-time registration for dwellings, commercial, retail, and office space at $15 per unit and annual renewal at $5 for renewals. For lots, the first-time registration also stays the same, with $25 per lot for first-time registration and annual renewal for $15. Online registrations will receive a 10 percent discount.

In a letter accompanying the proposed amended ordinance, Batista says the fees will be applied to administration of the program and pay for, “inspectors, software, etc.” Batista also writes the fees will not fully cover the cost of the program.

After registration, any property owner approved for Section 8 Housing with an valid inspection report does not need to submit to an inspection. State-owned properties are also exempt. Lodging houses, rooming houses, or dormitories that already receive annual inspections under another program also do not need to be inspected. Commercial and industrial property will not be inspected under the sanitary code.

All property owners must register by July 1, 2024, according to information sent by Batista’s office to city council.

Other municipalities in Massachusetts have similar programs. For example, Boston launched its rental registry law in 2013, Amherst in 2022, and Barnstable in 2006. Lawrence, Fitchburg and Leominster have similar programs. Several other municipalities have short-term rental registration requirements.

The contact information collected by registration will enable the city to communicate with property owners in cases of emergency, violation or other issues. Examples of communications property owners may receive from the city include ordinance changes affecting a registered property, notifications of nearby work, emergency alerts, or issues related to the property before fines are issued. Owners may also receive information about grant opportunities applicable to them.

Collected information will also inform first responders with information about a property when it is the scene of an emergency.

City council will consider the new proposal during its meeting on Tuesday, April 9, starting at 6:30 PM. The meeting takes place at Worcester City Hall, inside the Esther Howland (South) Chamber, at 455 Main St. Virtual participation in the meeting is available via ZoomThe meeting is also broadcast on the city’s Facebook page

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