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Know your rights in case of a fire

December 6, 2016

Neighborhood Development

Published by:

Neighborhood Development

With Oakland, Cambridge, and Boston all having to deal with recent fires, it's important that tenants and landlords understand their rights and obligations.

You should know:

  1. All landlords' insurance policies for multi-unit residential buildings must provide up to $750 in relocation benefits to tenants. (Mass. General Law, c. 175, Section 99, clause 15)
  2. Landlords upon written request must disclose the name of the insurance company. (Mass General Law, Chapter 186, section 21)
  3. Tenants should not be charged rent for the period the unit is uninhabitable and — if the tenant can't come back — the landlord must return the security deposit and last month's rent, or both.
  4. Renters, please, PLEASE get renter's insurance. 

More information about fire

The Office of Housing Stability, a division of the Department of Neighborhood Development, offers City of Boston tenants and landlords assistance and information in the aftermath of fire.

Boston Emergency Assistance Fund:

A City of Boston fund for victims of fire, condemnation, or natural disaster, that helps cover upfront costs associated with obtaining new housing. Contact the Office of Housing Stability for more information on eligibility and benefits,  as well as additional resources that help connect victims with clothing, food, health services and furniture. 

Relocation Funds:

Every insurance policy for multi-unit residential buildings must provide up to $750.00 in relocation benefits to tenants or lawful occupants affected by a fire to cover actual relocation costs including a hotel stay, a security deposit, or first month’s rent for a new rental, clothing, furniture, or placement. Landlords must notify tenants of this benefit at the beginning of the rental period. Mass. Gen. Law Chapter 175, Section 99, Clause 15.

Landlords must, upon written request of any tenant, disclose the name of any insurance company which may provide coverage or benefits to the tenant within fifteen days of the tenant’s request.  Mass. Gen. Law Chapter 186, Section 21.

Rent:

Tenants should not be charged rent for the period when the unit is uninhabitable and, if the tenants will not be re-housed, the landlord must return any tenant security deposit and/or last month’s rent held.

Priority for Affordable Housing:

Displacement by fire is grounds for priority one status for Boston Housing Authority (BHA) Section 8 and project-based subsidized housing.  Tenants should get a copy of the Fire and ISD reports as proof of displacement.

Damages:

The landlord is likely not responsible for fire damage to tenant’s belongings, absent negligence; renters should have insurance. Learn more at the Housing Stability website, or call 617-635-4200.

Office of Housing Stability
617-635-4200
Mayor’s 24-Hour Hotline
3-1-1 or 617-635-4500
Boston Fire Department
Fire Investigation Unit:

617-343-3324

Office of Neighborhood Services
617-635-3485
Inspectional Services Department
617-635-5300
Red Cross
617-274-5200
Office of Immigrant Advancement
617-635-2980
Boston Housing Authority
617-988-4000
DTA Office - 1010 Massachusetts Avenue
617-989-2200
DTA Office - 2201 Washington Street
617-989-6100