Dangerous Boston, Massachusetts Apartment Buildings: Students & Parents Beware

Recently here in the Boston area, the media has paid a lot of attention recently to the subject of dangerous off-campus housing for college students – and justifiably so.

Boston is the College Capital of the Nation, and there are more undergraduate and graduate students here than in almost any other part of the country. Against this massive student population, there are only so many campus dorm units – i.e., on-campus housing facilities. Universities here knowingly accept more students than they have the capacity to house on campus. Why? Tuition revenue. The student overflow ends up in apartment buildings in and around the greater Boston area – and these numbers have increased over 30% since just 2006. What’s the problem with this? A huge percentage of those apartment buildings and rental units are located in shoddy, dilapidated, over-crowded and dangerous buildings. Many of them are flagrant examples of numerous Building Code violations relating to both safety and health. Translation: Dumps and fire traps. More than 45,000 students live in these apartment buildings and houses – 99% never having lived on their own previously. Can you say “lambs to the slaughter?”

A great many of these apartments are located in the Allston/Brighton section of Boston – near Boston University and Boston College. Allston is so bad when it comes to dilapidated housing that it has earned the nickname “Rat City,” for the reputation it has for vermin in that part of Boston. Who owns the vast majority of these buildings and apartments? Many of them are absentee landlords – also known as slumlords. Whether it’s old, creaky stairwells that can collapse, causing a dangerous Massachusetts stairwell fall injury, or old, rotted exterior porches and decks that can result in a Massachusetts porch collapse injury, or old, out-of-code electrical wiring that can cause a Massachusetts apartment building fire, the risks are numerous and very serious.

Here in the greater Boston area, the last week in August and the first few days of September always see the massive wave of incoming students and their parents, dropping them off to college. Unless their kids have on-campus dorm housing, parents who bring their kids here to college should think twice and be extremely careful about the off-campus rental housing they let their kids move in to. As a Boston apartment injury lawyer, I’ve seen far, far too many examples of students (and others) being seriously injured in these types of old, out-of-date, dilapidated apartment buildings. Whether in a large building or a three-decker, the vast majority of these apartments are unsafe and, frankly, downright disgusting.

The Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team (the paper’s investigative division,) recently ran an entire series on this problem: “Shadow Campus.” That investigative series – nine months in the making – revealed shocking safety code violations, as well as health code violations, running rampant throughout certain parts of Boston: Allston, Brighton, The Fenway, and Mission Hill. Relying on government to fix the problem? Don’t even think that the City of Boston Inspectional Services Department, the city agency responsible for monitoring and enforcing safety and health code, will address these problems: Reasons?: 1) Students who intentionally over-crown these houses and buildings, in order to lower their individual share of the rents, will never report these conditions. 2) Students are also reluctant to report health code violations – like rats and insects – for the same reasons. 3) The landlords involved (slumlords) obviously aren’t going to say a word; and 4) The city doesn’t have anywhere near enough staff to deal with these problems.

Result? The perfect storm for dangerous and even deadly Boston off-campus student housing conditions. If you haven’t clicked on the link above for the Boston Globe Spotlight Team Report on dangerous Boston off-campus housing, “Shadow Campus,” I suggest that you do so now. In the very unfortunate event that you or someone you know has been injured in a Boston apartment accident, you should contact an experienced Boston apartment injury attorney. These types of cases can become very complex, and require substantial expertise to successfully represent an apartment injury victim.