The city of Boston is preparing for the swarm of students that will soon begin moving into apartments while others try and make their way out.
The student move-in period has always been a hectic time for students and locals, and some apartments have been known to be less than stellar. But city officials are seeing more success in the student housing experience with recent changes in procedure and communication.
Commissioner of Inspectional Services William "Buddy" Christopher said partnerships with universities and landlords in the area have made a huge difference.
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First, he said the city has worked with universities to adjust start dates so the crunch of the three-day moving period is spread out over three weeks. This prevents a rush of students arriving and moving in at the same time.
Boston has also been working with the landlords themselves to improve the student move-in experience. There is now more time between rental leases that give owners time to clean and inspect apartments before the new tenants arrive.
Turning problem properties into model examples of rental living has been a major initiative for the city, and much of that effort lies in meetings and workshops with landlords. Making sure they know the regulations governing their properties and what best practices to use is slowly improving many neighborhoods that were previously undesirable.
Christopher and his team of inspectors are out in force before students even arrive to ensure properties are up to code and provide a safe living environment for students. This includes making sure garbage cans won’t become a home for rodents, ensuring that there is safe ventilation in bathrooms and accessible fire exits and properly working fire detectors.
Inspector Peter Kenny has seen it all during his many years inspecting properties in the city. The wildest find was a nightclub hidden in the basement of an apartment with a full bar and concert stage. The students promoted their club and local bars and charged an entry fee.
Kenny said the owner of the property was completely unaware of the club, which posed a major risk to any who went in.
“That was definitely a fire hazard, a safety hazard, entrapment, I mean that checked all the boxes.”
He also found a two-bedroom apartment that had been turned into a three-bedroom, with one roommate living in the pantry. The biggest problem with that is the pantry was in the path of escape during an emergency and the roommate had a lock on the door.
Christopher said a major problem the city deals with during student move-in season is bed bug infestations. Students moving in may be tempted to take unwanted furniture left on the side of the road, but that could spell disaster if bed bugs are hiding inside.
“Once a building is infested, it is very difficult to get it cleaned up,” he said. “If it is out on the street, do not take it. If it is free, it may end up costing you an awful lot of money. Bed bugs can get into your clothing, books and furniture. It is not worth taking that item into your house no matter how cool it looks.”
Christopher wants those new to the area to take full advantage of the Boston 311 system, which is a communication line for non-emergency issues. If students have any issues during their move, or while they are in the city, they can dial 311, download the Boston 311 app, tweet @Bos311 or visit cityofboston.gov/311/.
More information on moving into Boston can be found at boston.gov/moving