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Problem properties in Boston

The Problem Properties Task Force has created a list of “problem properties” in the City.

How does a property become a “problem property”? We look at many details, including:

  • issued and outstanding violations related to the building, housing, and sanitary codes
  • the number of calls to the City's public safety agencies, and
  • any other City incident reports written about the property over the past 12 months.

We investigate the issues associated with a property before adding it to the problem property list. Our task force also sends letters to owners about the designation. A property stays on the list until its owner addresses the outstanding issues.

About the Task Force

Why the task force was created

Strong, vibrant neighborhoods are built around a perception of safety and shared vitality. One bad property on a street can disrupt the quality of life for the people living nearby. To address crime and blight in our neighborhoods, the City created the Problem Properties Task Force in 2011.

The Task Force represents more than a dozen City departments and agencies. As part of our work, we identify “problem properties.” These properties often soak up the City’s public safety and neighborhood resources. In some cases, these addresses are centers of drug use, violence, or other crimes. In other cases, they are visual blights that pose a safety hazard. In all cases, owners have allowed their properties to become chronic problems.

Through our enforcement authority, the Task Force holds property owners responsible. We empower the City to levy fines against absentee landlords. We also give citizens a way to address quality of life issues.

Designating a property

Task Force investigations

There are several ways that properties may be brought to the Task Force’s attention, including:

  • through City departments and agencies
  • through BOS:311 complaints, and
  • from members of the public through the Office of Neighborhood Services.

City departments and agencies will suggest properties based on reasons specific to their work. Members of the public often suggest properties that are blighted, or seem to have lots of criminal activity.

When a property is designated a “problem property,” there have been at least four valid complaint incidents in the past 12 months. But, the process is a little more involved than just the four complaints. The Task Force always reviews the exact nature and severity of all issues.

Designation process

After we collect information and completes our investigation, we make a decision on the property. We prepare a formal notice for property owners. Our task force sends this notice through registered mail to the address of the problem property, and it includes:

  • information about the nature of the issues at the property, and
  • a request to contact the Task Force chair and the local District Police Captain or the Inspection Services commissioner. These officials help develop a method through which a property owner can address their issues.

Property owners can appeal their designation. There is a formal process to appeal the designation before an appointed appeals board.

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