Sanitary Code with David Fleckner
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The State Sanitary Code
Dave Fleckner – Dave
Richard Merlino – Rich
David: Good evening, everybody. As you can see, I’m here to talk about Minimum Standards of Fitness for Human Habitation State Sanitary Code Chapter 2. Chapter 1 has nothing to do with us, landlords. Chapter 1 is dealing with hospitals and other crazy things that we don’t need to know about. Commonly known board of health; nobody refers to it as is. They always say, “Board of health. help me up.” It’s 105 CMR 410 Series.
I have listed three links here. First link, you can download the 105 CMR, and I recommend that you do it. Second one brings you to the state site. They have a couple of small pamphlets that are very, very good, and I recommend you put them in your arsenal also because they’re quick reference. The third is MassLegalHelp. MassLegalHelp was designed for the tenants, not for us, but if you use it right, you can combat the tenants because they’re being taught things, learn what they’re being taught, figure out how to go against them.
As Doug said, we have questions. I have done up some questions, typical multiple choice. Do them quick and then we will go on to what it actually is.
Male Audience 1: How quick?
David: You have to ask them.
Rich: By the way, we have handouts upfront, so you don’t have to write down that whole long link for each thing that Dave has. Those are really good resources to have. The CliffNotes from Dave’s talk are upfront here. You can pick it up as a handout, all the resources. What’s not on here and his business card is also up here as well. What’s not on here is the actual Sanitary Codes that he’s about to go over, so if you do want to take notes, that would be the thing to take a note of.
Male Audience 2: MassLegalHelp, how is that funded? Is it funded 100 percent from taxpayers? How do we stop that?
Male Audience 2: How do we get that to stop?
David: You’re never going to stop it because it’s not just for tenancies. It’s MassLegalHelp for people that cannot afford an attorney on every subject you can think of. You’re never going to stop it.
Male Audience 2: That’s supposed to be a government charity, too.
Rich: Okay. Let’s [crosstalk 0:02:44] the political discussion.
David: Let’s give charity to the people.
Rich: Correct though you maybe, sir. Dave, you want me to read the questions or do you want me to do it?
David: You go ahead.
“What is the temperature requirement in an apartment inhabitable rooms including bathrooms?”
These are very complex choices. Pay attention. “A. 64 degrees between 7:00 AM and 11:00 PM and 60 degrees 11:01 PM to 6:59 AM.” That’s A; if you think that’s the answer, you’ll text that. Wow! We got some people answering. “B. 70 degrees between 7:00 AM and 11:00 PM and 68 degrees 11:01 PM to 6:59 AM. C. 68 degrees between 7:00 AM and 11:00 PM and 64 degrees 11:01 PM to 6:59 AM. D. None of the above.”
David: Everybody done answering?
Male Audience 3: No.
Doug: All you have to do is text the letter.
Rich: Yes. When the thing stopped moving, although everybody has gotten in there, all right.
Male Audience 4: Sixty-five degrees?
Rich: All right, Dave. Tell us the answer.
David: The answer is C. Now there’s one other portion to this, “With all doors to every room open.” If the board of health comes in to check your temperature, they will open every door except the attic room and basement and check the temperatures, and they go from the farthest point with the heat gun and shoot the wall, and that’s how they know if it’s 68 degrees or not, and they don’t give you any time limit.
So, not enough heat. “Temperature requirements in every habitable room including the bathrooms; 68 degrees between 7:00 AM and 11:00 PM and at least 64 degrees from 11:01 to 6:59 AM.” It says, “at least 64,” so it can be higher.
Other than during the period from June 15th to September 15th, the board of health cannot check out the heating system between that timeframe because they cannot get an accurate reading. If you got a board of health citation and you have one of the old gas-on gas stoves, they can’t tell you you have to change it if it’s between June 15th and September 15th because they can’t get a reading whether it’s true or false.
“Temperature at no time exceed 78 degrees through the heating season. The only exception is if the tenant pays for the fuel. They pay it, they can run it up as high as they want, but if you are paying for it, there is your out when they open their windows and turn the thermostat up to 90 degrees.”
Brian: It’s there out?
David: No, it’s your out to go in and say, “Sorry. Down.”
Brian: To get them what?
David: It could be. You’re not going to get across for it.
Rich: I think Brian is pushing them out the window [laughter].
David: This is 105 CMR 410.201. What it tells you with?
Rich: Now Dave, before we move on, how do you feel about programmable thermostats? Where can we use them?
David: If you’re going to get a programmable or a lockable, make sure that it has an internal lock inside the thermostat and then put a box around it. That way, the tenant physically has to open the thermostat to change it, and when they do that, they’re going to break it. Then there’s your cost to remove them.
Rich: Okay, or at least it’s a deterrent because we’re going to try not to remove people if we can, but yes. In addition to that, what about if it gets too cold in the apartment and they are paying for the heat? That could freeze our pipes, right?
Rich: How does that work with your company? What do you do?
David: What do I do? For my heating systems, I go up and check them starting August 1st, make sure they’re up and running, make sure they’ll be ready for September 15th to be turned on. Come winter time, we do a couple of periodic checks in different buildings that we know are older. This is where you could come in, you have to reinsulate your house. This is where you come in, you might have to put the cellophane over the windows if they’re older windows, but if you can’t get that to 68 degrees, you’re responsible for getting it there, not the tenant.
Rich: Right, and as far as getting too cold in the apartment and freezing our pipes, I actually learned this from you. I now have in my lease a pipe-freeze prevention clause. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
David: Pipe freeze prevention is you put the onus on them that they must maintain utilities on, that they must maintain the heat set at a proper temperature not to freeze pipes. Also, what I do is the 1st of November, a letter goes out to every one of my tenants that we’re getting ready to enter frigid season, and I remind them in any day that the weather says that it’s going to be below 15 degrees, put a drip on the faucet. I don’t care if I’m paying for the water. I’d rather that the water dripping a little bit than pay for frozen pipes and flooding is coming down my apartments.
Rich: Absolutely! Somebody told I’m going to check the weather. Somebody told me earlier today that it’s getting to be subzero on Friday, so I’ve—
David: Tonight to tomorrow morning is going to be negative 6.
Rich: Tonight, okay. All right, I’m glad you mentioned that. I didn’t realize it was getting that cold.
David: It’s going to drop starting tonight.
Rich: [crosstalk 0:07:58] to close tonight.
David: Friday and Saturday, the wind chill and this is another thing and effects and people don’t think about it because wind chill will freeze if you have pipe chassis and you don’t have proper insulation in those chassis, they become wind rivers which will freeze your pipes. Check your buildings.
Rich: Okay. I’ve already got an email put together and this is something we’ve talked about before, just reminding everybody to turn their faucets on a really slow drip, and I have a picture. It’s a really slow drip, and the next picture is, “Not like this,” it’s a bunch of kids playing at a fire hydrant that got knocked over. We’re not turning the tap on full blast. We’re just letting a little bit of water moving in the pipes, so they don’t freeze. You’re communicating with your residents to help you prevent that.
David: I send out a winter newsletter starting November 1st about snow removal, about freezing, about watching the pipes, window is closed at all times. I don’t care if you’re paying for the heat. I don’t want to see the windows open because it’s going to affect the tenant upstairs and downstairs. I just talked about everything that can happen in the winter. They all get a newsletter that goes out November 1st.
Rich: Awesome! Good practices. Okay, so what’s our next question?
“What are the requirements for light in passageways…” The suspense.
Doug: Sorry [unintelligible 0:09:15]
Rich: “…hallways and staircases?”
Male Audience 4: Can we see the full credit?
Rich: Yes, it’ s coming up. “Common lighting in passageways, hallways, stairways.” I think Dave wrote up really good point of inspecting your heating systems in the fall before you need them to try to catch things early. We actually have an HVAC company come out and do it, so if it’s screwed up, it’s their fault. It’s not ours.
David: Little crawly things like to get into your boilers and make webs and things across your electronics and that will stop your heating system.
Rich: That’s disgusting. Okay, requirements of light in passageways, hallways, and staircases.
“A. Only during the hours of darkness. B. 12 hours per day. C. 24 hours per day. D. Only if there is no natural light.” When are we required to light the common areas, A, B, C, or D? A. Only when it’s dark. B. 12 hours a day. C. 24 hours a day. D Only if there is no natural light.”
Let’s see what everybody is trying to begin with. It looks like C is in the lead. It doesn’t mean it’s right, but we’ll see. All right, it looks like the group vote C, Dave. What is the answer?
Rich: It is C. All right.
David: You’re responsible for 24 hours of lighting in a common area that includes basements, too. You have to be able to turn it on and off.
Brian: How many degrees?
David: Actually it’s 360, and you must have one candle foot of power 4 feet off the ground, a warm candle for the light.
“The owner will provide light 24 hours per day, so the illumination alone are in conjunction with natural lighting, if you have windows and hallways and stuff, you can use that shall be at least one-foot candlepower at a measure of floor level.’ Floor level is basically 2 to 4 foot, depending on your inspector, not the ground of the floor. It’s up from the floor. It’s 410.254.
What I have done for most of my common areas, I have motion lights, and I have a 360-motion sensor, so there is no area that doesn’t get caught by motion? It kicks it on, but this way, they’re not on all the time. In this area here when you get further into this portion of the regulations, it talks about having a tenant that has a hallway light that you can turn on and off.
Here’s the great thing and I’ve read three court cases on it. If you don’t put that into the lease and disclose that to them, you’re responsible for that light. Everybody understand what I’m saying? If the tenant has a switch that they can turn the light over their door on, and it’s in the common area, you must disclose that in your lease and have them sign that they agree to it. Otherwise , you’re responsible for paying for the electricity for that light. Yes?
Female Audience 1: [inaudible 0:12:22]
Rich: Yes, I’m coming back there with the microphone. What kind of lights do you use, Dave?
David: I use motion sensors all over the place, and then other thing is the basement light, if someone is going down to do laundry, I have that on the timer switch not just on an up and down switch, so I know at 45 minutes to 1 hour from now, it’s going off anyways.
Female Audience 1: My question was what if the tenant has an outdoor light that’s on a switch but it’s just their entrance?
David: It’s an entryway, so you must just disclose to them that they are responsible for that lighting system. You put it in your lease and you’re covered.
Female Audience 1: That their outdoor light is their responsibility?
David: Right. If you don’t take and they take you to court, you’re going to lose. There are three lower court cases and one SJ case that has already nailed the owner.
Female Audience 1: Thanks.
Rich: Let’s not go to court. What kind of lightbulbs do you use?
Rich: Amen, brother. I like it.
David: I also get 4, 5, or 6 years out of them.
Rich: You know you live in the Commonwealth where the pilgrims settled when they were measuring light in candlepower in our laws [laughter].
David: No, candlepower is actually what they teach you if you go up to become an electrician.
Rich: No kidding.
David: That is illumination is candlepower.
Rich: All right, I haven’t heard this one before. How do you stop people from stealing your common lightbulbs?
David: How do I stop them?
David: I put cages around my lights.
Rich: What’s a cage?
David: It’s a metal cage. You go down to your electrical supply. Show them the light, say, “I need a cage for it, so you put it over thin. It’s very thin. It doesn’t block, but for them to get into that light, they’re going to have to stand there and unscrew that cage just to take it down.
Rich: Okay, so it makes it less motivating for them to do it?
Rich: Before we move on to the next topic, do we have any questions about those two things?
Male Audience 5: Are those cages come large enough to put the tenant’s hand?
Rich: We are not going to repeat that question. What we will do is move on to the next, so we’ve covered heating in the units that were responsible for. We’ve covered the common area lighting. Is there a requirement for occupants for installation and maintenance—what’s the last word—responsibility? Are the occupants of the units responsible for any maintenance or any instillation responsibilities?” This is just a yes or no. Do they have any responsibilities or do they not? If they don’t, then that means that the landlord would have all responsibilities for all instillation all maintenance? Is that right, Dave?
Rich: Is that the nature of the question?
David: Did you jump ahead?
Rich: We have an ampersand and a colon. This is freeform. You can type whatever you want.
Doug: Yes, but the—
Rich: Okay. Let’s keep it clean, folks. That’s how it ended up with an ampersand and a colon. That was somebody’s answer. Okay, we have a nah. We have a nary or maybe.
David: Or maybe.
Rich: I think that’s a [unintelligible 0:15:36] isn’t it? Dunno, depends. Yes. Doug, if yes is in all bold, does that mean for getting a lot of yes’s? Okay, all right, this is certainly interesting modern art way of going about this. Dave, tell us what the answer is.
David: Bring up the code. It’s easier if I have the code on.
Rich: Who said lightbulb? Okay. So, that is an example of something they would be responsible for.
David: All right. “Tenants are responsible for maintenance in their apartments. This is one of the clauses in the Sanitary Code that helps you as an owner and a landlord. Every occupant of the dwelling unit shall keep app toilets, washbasins, sinks, showers, bathtub stalls, refrigerators, dishwashers in a clean and sanitary condition and exercise reasonable care in their proper use of the occupation thereof.”
When you walk in and that says they’re cold and they got their gas stove open to push out the oven heat, there’s your viability to nail. It’s not being used for the purpose of it. When you walk into a bathroom and they don’t like to wipe the water down, so you don’t get mildew and mold and now all of a sudden you got that in there and the board of health is citing you, you can come back to the board of health and say, “Wait a minute! They have a responsibility. I want them to prove that they’re wiping down after a shower. I want them to prove that they’re leaving the fan on long enough.
After you take the shower, water residue will reside in your shower for 30 minutes after the shower is completed. In my lease, I have an addendum about showers that says your bathroom has a vent that is vented outside. After you complete the use of a shower, a tub or shaving, you must leave the vent on for 30 minutes. I even put timer switches on for them.
Rich: All right. If I find out one of my tenants is taking a shower, I always go over there and get in there with them just to show them what the right thing to do is with the fan.
David: Those are just some of the samples that I’m telling you about because we all know I’m not going to say all tenants or residents, but we know that probably about 60 percent of them don’t give a darn about our stuff.
Rich: Yes. That is a tough thing to follow up on, but Dave, let’s talk about some of the things that can be done to monitor the overall condition of the unit in general before a problem comes up? I know that this is something that you focus on.
David: I do four inspections during their year term. Move in, I do one right around heating season. I do one in the middle of winter about smoke detectors, and I do one 30 days prior to them leaving or their lease expiring. You can choose whichever way you want to do it. I change batteries in my smokes every year and make them sign off. We test them. I go in, but only do my guys go in and do that. they have a checklist that they walk in and they look through every room. They check everything. They notice if something is wrong, but I’m probably a little bit more anal that most everybody else.
David: You know that.
Male Audience 6: Come on, Dave. Really?
David: It isn’t a gene that I have. It’s called spending 23 years in the army and retiring as a first sergeant. I keep it very, very detailed.
David: Let me ask you a question that can kind of deal with this. How many of you have forced hot water baseboard heating? How many of you have baseboard electric heating? Do you have a clause in your lease that requires them to vacuum out those areas either once a month or at least twice a year?
Female Audience 2: [inaudible 0:19:32]
David: That teaches me very good. The reason why I said to do this, every year when you shut them down, there’s a gazillion things of dust in there because I know homeowners don’t do this. It saves your heating system because now it’s not overworking the baseboard. You get all that crap out if you haven’t vacuumed. If they don’t want to do it, charge them. Tell them there’s going to be a fee every six months. They come in and clean those out to make sure they work great because as soon as you turn that on, it creates static electricity and all the dust gets sucked to that fin. The more dust that gets burned onto that fin, the less effect of your heating system is, even if you put in a brand-new boiler.
Rich: Prevention is the key?
Rich: That’s something that you could check at least when you go around and check the heating systems in the fall.
David: We do.
Rich: That’s on your checklist?
Rich: Okay. It just occurred to me that our company, Gwendolyn Property Management, I guess we do this five times a year. We do it every quarter where we go do something. We inspect the heating system. We replace smoke detector batteries, or in the spring, we replace screens and stuff. There’s something we do, so we’re in the apartment every three months and then when they renew their lease, we’re in there a fifth time. During the course of that time, you can see things that aren’t even necessarily up here, but you can tell if the apartment is growing mold if you’re in there four or five times a year, can’t you?
I mean you’re going to catch this stuff early, so that we’re not nailing them, and go to court, stuff like that. We can kind of figure this stuff out and do it in advance. That’s our goal.
David: I’m going to give you one here. I had a tenant take us to court, says there is mold in the apartment. We had the state come in because the local board of health cannot test for mold. It has to be at the state level. They couldn’t find anything. We’ve figured it out. They weren’t cleaning out their baseboards. One of the children had poured some sort of liquid down in there. It became mold. We were able to put that back on the tenant. The judge agreed with us because we had our plumber and heating guy talk about it. I also brought in the board of health. They didn’t maintain their stuff properly. They couldn’t take us and we won the case.
Rich: Hold that question, Jim, until after the next one. Don’t forget. Okay, so we’re going to move on to the next topic, and then we’ll open up to questions.
“What is the minimum square footage per occupant? A. There is none.” Nice job, Doug. “B. 150 square feet of floor space and 70 square feet of sleeping space per occupant. C. 100 square foot of floor space.” Bad job, Doug.
Doug: Got it.
Rich: “And 50 square feet of sleeping space. D. None of the above.” What is the minimum square footage per occupant?” We’re hitting some variety here. All right.
David: I’d like to say that but it doesn’t work.
Rich: Dave, you’re giving it away. All right. We still have people weighing in. It really seems like it’s pretty close between B and D that there is not a minimum square footage per occupant and B, 150 square feet of floor space and 70 square feet of sleeping space. It looks like B is taking the lead. Dave, what is the correct answer to this one?
David: The correct answer is B for the occupant. Everybody else that’s in the apartment is an additional occupant. You have a primary occupant or an occupant defined by the code or you have an additional occupant. “Every dwelling unit shall contain at least 150 square foot of floor space for its first occupant and at least 100 square foot of floor space for each additional occupant. The floor space to be calculated on the basis of total habitable rooms.” Is a bathroom a habitable room? Is the kitchen a habitable room?
Male Audience 7: No, sir.
David: Every room occupied for sleeping purposes by one occupant shall contain at least 70 square feet and each additional occupant 50 square feet. Remember habitable rooms, you have a primary occupant, you have additional occupants.
Rich: Every room depends on how drunk the people are. A bathroom is a habitable room for a lot of folks on the weekend.
David: I didn’t say temporary habitability. I said habitable.
Rich: Okay. There is a clear answer to that question, and it’s spelled out right there. I’m going to go to Jim first and then any additional questions.
David: And I’m going to tell you, half the board of health inspectors out there get it wrong.
Jim: Are these requirements whether or not you list them in your lease or are they only enforceable if you list them in your lease?
David: These are the 105 CMR code from Massachusetts. They are enforceable by the courts, the board of health at all times. Somethings you should list in your lease so that you can come back on them, but as far as like that previous question of the maintenance.
Jim: So you can just generally have a statement in there that tenant shall comply with all habitability standards of the code, and that covers everything you’re talking about.
David: Mine talks about in the maintenance area and inhabitable area. I quote the 105 CMR 410 series chapter 2.
Jim: Because I know what the tenant is going to do. The tenant says, “Well, I wasn’t notified. I didn’t have notice. I didn’t know.” Often courts concede on that.
David: How many of you have leases or rental agreements that prior to them saying, you have a clause in there that the tenant signed that says, “I have read or we have read, been able to ask questions, understand this rental agreement, and I’m signing of my own free volition, no duress, and no coercion,” and make them sign underneath it. If they come back on any of this, you show that.
I did it once with Judge Sullivan. He looked at the tenant, says, “Is that your signature? The tenant says yes. He says, “I don’t want to hear it. You had a chance to read. You agreed to it.” Judge Horan did the same thing. Protect yourself at all times.
Rich: That’s really good advice in a contentious situation, but now I know your lease is very long, biblical you might want to say, but what do you do? Do you just hand them a stack of papers when they move in, or do you go over it with them?
David: We sit down. My lease signings are 1-1/2 hours.
Rich: Mine, too. Tell us about that.
David: The first thing we do is we go into the apartment. We walk through it. I make them do everything. Open the windows. Close the windows. Lock the windows. Open the doors. Look at every wall. Look at every ceiling. Turn every light on. Test the smoke detectors. Test the carbons. Turn the hot water on. Turn the cold water on. I sit there with the heat gun in the hot water to show them that it is between 110 and 120. I always do that at the kitchen sink because that’s your most accurate. Your shower is not going to be if you have a mixing valve.
Then we go to my office and we sit down, and I hand them the lease. They sit there with me right there, and I say, “Here is your chance to read it. If you sign it without reading it, that’s your own thing, but you’re going to sign everywhere you have to sign.” I make them read it. I continually ask before they change a page, “Do you have any questions?”
That time period tells me what this tenant is going to do. The ones that skim through it real quick, okay, I may have a problem with them. The ones that read it, not so much going to have a problem with them, but I got to watch them, too.
Rich: Okay, so that’s one approach. Mine is I’m a little bit too much of a control freak for that. I actually sit down to read every part of the lease to them because I want them to be educated about these things as Dave does and that’s my way of going about it where I don’t want to like sneak up on you at this requirement that you have. I want you to know about it and understand it and ask questions, and Dave—
David: The reason that I do not read it to them, if you have somebody that speaks another language who doesn’t speak your language well and you read it to them, they can use that in court—there’s already been a case law—against you.
Rich: Damn int, Dave.
David: I make them read it. They have to read it, not you.
Male Audience 8: A quick question on that piece right there. It says, “Any room occupied for sleeping purposes,” so if it’s a one-bedroom, it has a dining room and a living room and they’re using other rooms as sleeping quarters, would that qualify as or only the bedroom itself?
David: Look at the building code’s requirements for a bedroom. It says a closet, a window, and a door.
Rich: Or not even just a window. There’s a certain amount.
David: Yes. The window has to be able to fit a firefighter through it with all equipment on.
Male Audience 8: What about for children or baby? Would a baby qualify as another?
David: Whether they’re 3 inches long or 6-foot high, it’s the same requirement.
Brian: Some landlords may not be aware of this, but that right there will protect us from that call that we get if we got a two-bedroom, so many square feet, and they say, “Well, I’d like to move 6 or 7 people into it.” We can’t discriminate against children. However, if the building is not large enough, the unit is not large enough to legally house that many occupants, you can say, “I’m sorry.”
David: It’s not discrimination if you say, “Sorry. It’s only a 650-square foot apartment. You have 10 people. You’re over my limit.”
Rich: Does 650 would allow you to have six, five people?
David: Take a look at it. This one gets 150 square foot, so 650 square feet apartments. How much of that is sleeping, how much of that is habitable?
Rich: Right, right. Got you. You really calculated for this. Did you have a question, sir?
David: At 650 square feet, the maximum you’re going to get is four people.
Male Audience 9: [unintelligible 0:29:31]
David: That’s sleeping, not habitable. There’s a difference. A lot of these terms confuse the heck out of everybody.
Male Audience 9: It’s a large apartment.
David: If it’s a large apartment, then you can do it.
Male Audience 9: Yes. If it’s small.
David: You got to have this 70-square foot and the 50 square foot, so that means you need a minimum of 120 square in that bedroom to be able to house two people if you want to use a primary occupant. If there are secondary occupants, 150 square foot.
Male Audience 9: If the apartment is too big.
David: Yes. If you have a 10 x 12 and 10 x 10, you’re fine.
Rich: We’re moving on to the next question.
Female Audience 3: Back to your lease signing, when you have a language barrier situation, how are you handling that and ensuring that?
David: I have a translator, that is a certified translator, not just somebody who speaks the language, and I bring them in and I pay them to do it.
Female Audience 3: What’s the average cost on somebody like that?
David: Thirty dollars to $50.
Female Audience 3: Thank you.
Rich: All right—
David: But the reason is I have a certified translator because if I bring that into court, they look at it, they’re certified by the state to be a translator, courts don’t say a thing.
Male Audience 10: I have a quick question for you, just to clarify what you’re saying regarding habitable space. You said the bathroom is not habitable space. The kitchen is or is not?
David: It’s not.
Male Audience 10: So the calculated square footage needed for a number of people, it’s the living room, dining room, and the bedrooms. Period.
David: Pretty much.
Male Audience 10: Okay.
David: But I do the whole apartment and I knock out the kitchen, so I will look and see what is my whole apartment, then I say my kitchen is a 10 x 12, 10 x 18, you take that square footage off.
Male Audience 10: Okay. thank you.
Rich: But overall, it’s not really a lot of space. You really have to have lot of people. This allows quite a few people to live in a modest-sized apartment.
David: All right. Let me give you something here. I took over a building for somebody, a friend of mine who just couldn’t take it anymore and I took over property management. She had a five-bedroom, two-floor apartment for a second-floor apartment in the building. I went up and knocked on the door, and I had a list. She was a Section 8. I had a list of who was supposed to be in there, which is a total of 6 people. There were 22 people living in that apartment. They had mattresses in the closets, in the attic, you name it. Took care of it real quick. Bye-bye. That’s bad.
Rich: Okay. Moving on to the next question and then we’ll open up to the questions again in a couple of minutes as we get to the end here. What is our next question? “What is required to be secured in a building?” What does that mean. We’ll find out. The answers are the clue. That’s great. Okay.
“What is required to be secured in a building. A. Every building entry and exit door is required to be secured. B. Every entry and exit door and all windows. C. Every building and unit entry and exit door. D. Every building and unit entry and exit door and all windows.” I think that says. Is that right, Doug, the last one?
Rich: Okay. What is required to be secured? Let’s find out. What does the group say. So far the group says every building and unit entry exit door and all windows.
Female Audience 4: Is this the second question?
David: I don’t remember. I’ve lost count.
Female Audience 4: [inaudible 0:33:14]
David: It’s up to you. Windows are in [unintelligible 0:33:18]. We’ve done a couple of others, so I was going to get to the last page.
Female Audience 4: Yes.
David: Skip through it.
Rich: D is in the lead. All right, Dave, what is the correct answer? What is required to be secured in our buildings?
David: D. Every entry and exit into the building, every entry and exit into an apartment, and every window. “Every dwelling shall be capable of being secured against unlawful entry. This means all doors and windows. That’s simply how it says it in the code. It doesn’t say, “Well, can I have a secured entry door but the apartments are going to have a measly little door, or a measly little lock that doesn’t lock well.
Rich: That was very straightforward.
Rich: Okay. I like that. Just because we’re running a little bit overtime, we’re going to finish this because there is still a couple more of this that are really good. Has this stuff been useful so far?
Rich: Okay, yes. This is really stuff we need to be on top of, but I had said if you had questions for Tim, Sherwin, or Tom from Eastern Bank, if you want to speak with them, they’re going to be out in the hall in a couple of minutes. If you want to go speak with them, you can do that now, and you missed the last part of the sanitary code. I just wanted to let me know that, and we are moving on to the next question in the sanitary code’s greatest hits.
David: The reason I picked the ones that we’re discussing is from numerous conversations with Section 8 and board of health officials on what they’re consistently finding.
Rich: That’s right. When we originally talked about this, you actually reached out to Section 8 inspectors and board of health people and you said what are landlords negligent on or what are they getting nailed on. These were the things that they came up with. Is that a pretty good source? We just want to make sure we’re not the landlords getting nailed.
“What is required for building identification. A. A written plaque of the address of the building. B. A number affixed to each building. C. A number to each building and to each apartment, matching the mailing address. D. The building must have a number and each apartment must be marked appropriately matching the mailing address.”
David: Matching the mailing address
Rich: What are we required to put on the building for identification? A, B, C, or D?
David: Somebody must have answered D first, that’s why it shoots to 100 percent.
Rich: Yes. As soon as somebody answers, it starts to pop up, so D is in the lead. The building must have a number and each apartment must be marked appropriately, matching the mailing address, but we’ve got all four answers coming up here, and people are still coming in. D is still in the lead. People are still voting. C is catching up. Wow! We’re not sure about this one. I can see why the board of health says we’re not doing well on this.
David: Well the problem with this question is it’s in conjunction with the fire code.
Rich: Well, tell us what the fire code is.
David: Well, now we’re going to answer. D was the correct answer. “The owner shall affix to every building a number representing the address of such building. Additionally, each door to an apartment must be marked appropriately, matching the mailing address.” The fire code says you got to go a little bit further. The fire code says it’s going to be centered on the door at eye level. They want to be able to identify when they go into a building and somebody says the fire is in 2C. They want to know exactly and be able to notice it. Yes?
Male Audience 11: [inaudible 0:37:06]
Rich: Eye is eye level.
David: Okay. from what I’ve been able to get—
Rich: Let’s be careful with this one.
David: Everybody is at different heights, figure it 5 foot 5.
Female Audience 5: [inaudible 0:37:16]
David: Pat, we don’t come to worst.
Brian: [inaudible 0:37:25] have a discrimination lawsuit for it.
David: Excuse me. I’ve changed it to little people.
Rich: Okay, so I’m going around with the microphone. Does anybody have any questions on those? All right. Making my way to the back.
Male Audience 12: I have a different question than recent.
Rich: Okay, good. I like that shirt.
Male Audience 12: Thank you. Dave, when you have a translator for signing of the lease, is it acceptable to have a child translate their own child or the parent?
Female Audience 6: Certified.
David: If they bring them, you probably could get away with it because they brought them. I don’t leave anything for technicality.
Male Audience 12: But they would be living there also.
David: I understand it, but I don’t leave anything for technicality in any way, so in Fitchburg, I have Spanish. I have Hmong, I have some Swiss, and I have some German. I have translators for all those languages that are certified by the state. This way, if I have to go to court, I have their paperwork and the judges don’t even argue with me.
Rich: I don’t know how you’ve gotten overrun by the Swiss to the point where you have to hire a translator, but—
David: I have three tenants that are Swiss. It’s going to be there.
Rich: Wow! All right, who knew? Okay. Any other questions? I’m in the middle of the room now, so you can’t trick me into getting me to run really far. Of course now nobody has their hand up. Okay, we’re moving on to the next topic toward the end.
David: You might as well stay there.
Rich: Dave doesn’t want me upfront.
“When are screens required? A. Only when you’re having an inspection.”
Rich: Now before you laugh, make sure you’re not one of the ones that that’s your policy.
Rich: “B. Only if you’re renting to a third-party payee,” so that means like Section 8, RCAP, or something like that. C. During the period of April 15th through October 1st.”
David: No, 15th.
Rich: Fifteenth, sorry. It’s cut off. “During the period of April 15th to October 15th. D. During the period of April 1st through April 30th.” When do we have to have screens? The group is split on this again.
Audience: [mumbling] [laughter]
Rich: All right. D is in the lead. Second most common answer is C. Dave, what is the correct answer to this?
David: Doug, if you will go to the code? “The owner shall provide and install screens as required. They need to be in place during the period from April 1st to October 30th, both inclusive in the year.”
Now there are two codes in the habitation code that affect this, so I put them up here, 410.451 and 410.552. You got to read them both. The only time there’s an exception to this is if you have a third-party payee inspection because they only come once a year and maybe anytime during the year, your screens have to be intact.
Rich: What do you do to make sure that all of your screens are intact throughout the year?
David: During our inspections, we look at them.
Rich: Got you. When you go into those three inspections each year and lease renewal and stuff like that, that’s on your checklist? Got you. If a screen is damaged, it’s not going to be damaged for long before you catch it and fix it before anybody probably even notices.
David: Right. The other time that I go if we get severe weather, whether it’s hurricane season or snow weather, or it’s pelting and it’s coming down sideways, we usually check after that also. We just do a walk around the building and take a quick look.
Rich: That’s smart. Got you. Yes, I learned this from Dave because of this meeting. Mine, we do ours late. Every May, we go around and fix all the screens that have holes in them. where am I going? Here.
Male Audience 12: Are you required to pay for those screens when they damage them?
David: Do you have it in your lease that they’ll pay for things or do you just assume they’re going to pay for them?
Male Audience 12: I would tell them they have to pay for them if they break them, if they damage them.
David: During your walkthrough inspection, are all your screens intact and you make note of it and let them know at that time that if the screens get damaged, you’re going to get them fixed but they’re going to get the bill.
Male Audience 12: Okay.
David: If you don’t have it—
Male Audience 12: As long as it’s on the lease.
David: If you don’t have a statement of condition or a walkthrough inspection or inspections continually, you’re going to get beaten up in court and you’re going to lose.
Male Audience 12: Okay.
Rich: What color is the shirt? I’m going to have to say it’s blue. Is that the correct answer?
Female Audience 7: Yes.
Rich: No. I know exactly what’s happening here. I’m going to talk to you about this afterwards, your shirt. I’ve been doing this wrong, but one thing it says in our lease, again just in the let’s try to educate folks and I’ll be on the same page as far as what the expectations. It says in our lease with Gwendolyn Property Management that there is something that says windows and screens.
It says the landlord is responsible for supplying working windows and screens intact or whatever it says, something like that, but the resident is required to make sure that they stay that way, and if there are any damages, say if they break the window, or if they break the screen, that they are responsible for that. It’s in writing and we go over it with them so that hopefully everybody knows what to do. Do we have any other questions on that? Are we up to the last one, Dave? We don’t know. All right, here we go.
“Who’s responsibility is it to maintain areas free from garbage and rubbish?” Another Massachusetts term, rubbish. I moved here from Florida. I thought rubbish was like poppycock. It’s like a nonsensical thing to say. Around here, it’s—
David: It actually comes from London.
Rich: Yes, okay. “A. The tenants of any areas they control—
David: We’re in New England.
Rich: “Are responsible to maintain the areas from garbage and rubbish. B The occupant of any areas, which they exclusively occupy or control. C. The owners of the building. D. Nobody. None of the above.”
Rich: All right, nobody picks nobody. All right, some smart-aleck is going to do it just because I said that. Okay, C is in the lead, but not by much. C is the owner is responsible to maintain the areas free from garbage and rubbish. B is the occupants are responsible for it.
David: Doug, if we—
Rich: It’s tied. Hold on. Hold on. We can’t move on yet. This is too exciting.
Rich: And there’s our smart-aleck. Thank you. Right on cue. Excellent.
Rich: There’s one in every crowd. I guess there’s two in every crowd because it was my idea, too, so I thought the same thing. There’s just two of us. Okay, so we’re tied B and C. Let’s see what the code tell us. Who’s responsible for this, Dave?
David: “The occupant of any dwelling unit shall be responsible to maintain in a clean and sanitary condition and free of garbage, rubbish, other filth or causes of sickness that part of the dwelling which he,” they use he, but that means everybody, “exclusively occupies or controls.” The only place that you’re going to be nailed on are your stairways.
Male Audience 13: Common area.
David: Because they control their entryway into their apartments. This is how I was able to win a bedbug court case because it does say that pests were the responsibility of the owners if it’s two family or above. I was able to take this and bring it in because I could prove where they came from. I had a tenant that liked to things off the street. We proved it. My attorney used this in court. The judge agreed with us. The tenant ended up having to pay the whole bill for me delousing the building from the bedbugs.
Female Audience 8: How did you get to prove that he was taking stuff off the streets?
David: I have cameras on the buildings.
Female Audience 8: Okay.
Rich: Caught on camera. Dave, maintaining the area free of garbage and filth and rubbish and things like disease that you’re going to catch during your normal visits to the apartments—
Rich: Because you’re not just abandoning them. You’re in there every couple of months or something, so that’s good. What can you tell us about things we should have in our lease or things we should educate people about in advance to prevent this from being a problem?
David: Put a writing in your lease. Take the whole thing. Put it in. Put the CMR code. Make them sign underneath it.
David: Don’t change the wording. Don’t change anything. Just put it in as a clause in your lease, make them sign underneath the clause. The other thing I recommend it to everybody: put cameras on all your buildings. They are not that expensive and there’s a lot of good systems to use out there. If you do it, have one with night vision.
Rich: If you’re a member, you can actually look back. We actually had a meeting on security cameras here in 2014, I want to say, somewhere around November-ish of 2014, something like that. If you do a search for it on the website, Doug, would it come up? I don’t mean you, but I mean the general you if people will search for it if that’s something you’re interesting in. You mentioned bedbugs from second-hand furniture.
Rich: What do you do to prevent something like that from taking place in your buildings?
David: I have a clause in my lease that if they Aaron’s, they use Rent-A-Center that I must have a certificate from Aaron’s and Rent-A-Center that these have been cleaned and not transported in vehicles that are bringing back stuff from other places. Aaron’s and Rent-A-Center won’t ever sign one, so you’re never going to get one.
I usually put in there that your movements for the common areas are on camera, so it’s posted and they have it in the lease and it says if we see you bringing things in and out, because I also have them outside, and they’re not new, we know you’re bringing them from somewhere.
Rich: Absolutely. Again, in the interest of prevention and problem avoidance, this is something I actually educate people on before they move in, and I’m sure a lot of people in this room do, but you can’t just make them understand the severity of the situation. Say, if you bring in something from the side of the road and you bring in bedbugs, is that a situation you want to have? No. Okay, if you see somebody else in the building bring in a couch or a piece of furniture that clearly is not brand-new. it’s not wrapped in plastic, it doesn’t have tags on it and they’re bringing in bedbugs, guess who else is getting bedbugs? That’s you. If you see somebody bringing in something like that into our building, will you let us know? We have an anonymous drop box in the laundry room if you don’t want to be credited for tattletaling. Will you let us know so we can make sure it doesn’t happen to you, you don’t get bedbugs?”
What do most people say? Yes, they don’t want, right? We try to create a culture of tattletaling.
Female Audience 9: The thing is, as someone who really has enjoyed the benefits from Craigslist, how do you deal with that? They might have gotten something on Craigslist?
Rich: Right. That’s a really smart question and that’s actually something I mention when I go over with people. I say I hate to say this that you can’t bring in secondhand furniture because practically everything I ever owned in my first apartment, I got from the side of the road. It’s a lot of fun.
Rich: Okay, so I’m not trying to be—
David: I talk to my tenants to go consignment shops and other places and I say just show me a receipt for it.
Rich: Okay. In addition to that, when it comes to a couch or something like that, we’ve learned this from Ford’s Hometown Services. Before they move the couch in, they actually wrap it up in plastic and treat it for bedbugs to guarantee and then the pest control company will guarantee that you can move that into your building and you’re not going to have a problem. Does that make sense?
Female Audience 10: You put that on the lease, too?
Rich: It’s in there. Yes, there’s a whole pest infestation addendum that is also on MassLandlords.net that I just put in my lease, and it actually describes the horrific nightmare that your life will become if bedbugs end up not just in your apartment but anywhere in your building. It’s not pleasant and hopefully it sticks in people’s mind. That’s the idea.
David: Anybody had a problem with roaches in the last 2 years?
Audience: Oh [laughter]!
David: Ninety percent of the time, they’re not from the tenants. Serious, they’re not from the tenants. They’re coming from US Mail. They’re coming from all the places that people are purchasing things because in the cardboard factories, roaches are in there. They’re laying their eggs in it. When they get into your house, you open the box. You put it there and you leave it. the eggs hatch.
Rich: As soon as you finish throwing up, if anybody has any questions as we wrap up for Dave Fleckner on the sanitary code, all right.
David: We got one more page done.
Male Audience 14: When you talk about the cameras inside and outside the building, how are you securing those to ensure that either they’re not tampered with and are you doing onsite storage or offsite storage of the video?
David: I have it both ways. I can remotely access it and I have it go on my computer in my office, and we also have a hard drive on the system itself and it’s all wireless system. I‘ve talked to everyone of my owners into it, and shown them the best practices, why it’s worth it, and how they can get better insurance prices, how they can get the return on their investment, and they’ve all agreed. How do we secure them? They don’t know where my hard drive is. They don’t know where my system is. They only know where the camera is.
Rich: All right, so we went way overtime, but nothing is as fast as the sanitary code, so I feel like it was really appropriate everybody is in the holiday mood. I don’t want Dave to have to skip over this last slide. Is it okay if we take 4, 5 minutes more to go over this last part? I promise you it’s worth it.
Rich: All right, awesome.
David: I have on my desk and every one of my assistants has a binder that I created. I call it my State Sanitary Code and Board of Health Resource Binder. Everything I have in here is right here. Doug has it. He can get you the glossary or the table of contents.
Rich: What’s up on that slide? The whole resource binder, Dave, is actually in the handout [crosstalk 0:52:02]
David: Yes, except for the two case laws.
Rich: Except for the two case laws. Really? They’re on there?
David: No. They’re on that, but they’re not on that flash drive. I didn’t get a chance to put them on there.
Rich: Okay. They’re on the printed handout that we have up on the front table.
David: Okay. Everything in here, you can get off free websites, but I have given Doug copies of them, so if you need to get them from him, you can. The only two things that are not on there are these two case laws. The reason I had the case laws in there, Boston Housing Authority vs Hemingway is how we got to sanitation codes, and the judges look to that. It was 1972 before the State Sanitary Code ever came aboard, but that’s what caused the State Sanitary Code to be made, so it’s a good case to get a hands on. It’s about 22 pages long, but if you can get it when you’re using it for your facility, read it.
Rich: Great stocking stuffer.
David: Yes. Then the case law, Jablonski vs York Properties is a Supreme Justice case that has a couple of lines in there that defines that, and I will show it to you tonight that talks about what people can withhold rent for.
Rich: Let’s spend—okay, good.
David: I’m not going to go heavy into it because I’m not an attorney. I’ve read it. I’ve talked about it with my attorney and a couple of others. It basically this SJC came down, it must be a major medical, major safety, or lead. Nothing that our tenants withhold from really unless your place is falling apart is a major apart is a major problem.
Male Audience 15: What about mice?
David: Mice are not a major problem. Infestations are not a major problem. They can be if you’re not being proactive into getting rid of them, but if you’re doing everything you have to, it’s not major. It’s only if you let it go.
Rich: As we wrap because that’s a whole other topic. I’m really glad you mentioned that. The stuff up here, your homework if I may say is to get very familiar with MassLegalHelp.org. A lot of the stuff that Dave has up here, the tenant resources that are on there, what Dave does is he uses those and he has them laying out when he has apartment showing. It’s like we’re on the same team. If you’re trying to run a good business and you’re trying to stay compliant with everything, then we don’t have an adversarial relationship, right?
This is on the honor system. Who got all the questions right tonight? We have one hand up. You, sir, win the resource binder. You get one for yourself.
David: Not that one.
Rich: But not that one. The one that’s over here. Thank you so much for specifying that one, Dr. Specificity. I’m not going to steal your copy, I promise. All right, so we have one person. I can’t actually [unintelligible 0:55:02] if it is in the back. It’s okay. Let’s hear it for it’s okay.
Rich: Okay. Dave is going to hang around if you have any more questions for him. Do you have any parting words for us, Dave Fleckner?
David: Everything I told you tonight is the things that I’ve learned over my 9 years of being a property manager. I do not have a human health and resource degree. I do not have a health service degree. I just like to ask questions, and I make appointments all the time to go sit down with the board of health to say, “Define this for me. Tell me what your read is on it.” Then I know what they’re coming it. I talk to attorneys. I hit judges up. Ask some questions.
Rich: Talk about proactive. Great advice. Let’s hear it for Dave Fleckner.