Housing Code Checklist

Your Landlord’s Responsibilities

Use this checklist to make sure the property you are renting meets the state code for health and safety standards. If your landlord does not meet one or more of these conditions, you have a legal right to demand repair or improvement. Also be aware of your own responsibilities as a tenant.

The Housing Code Checklist


  • Sink—large enough to wash dishes, drains properly, and does not leak
  • Lights—at least one wall outlet and one electric light fixture
  • Adequate ventilation
  • Stove and oven in good repair


  • Toilet—free from leaks
  • Sink or wash basin—free from leaks
  • Bathtub or shower—free from leaks
  • Lights—at least one electric light fixture
  • Adequate ventilation
  • Walls—four feet high and made of nonabsorbent, easily cleaned material such as tile


  • Enough hot and cold water for ordinary use even when others in the building are using it (owner is responsible for hot water heating bills unless tenant signs a written agreement stating otherwise)
  • Hot water heater in good working condition (must heat to at least 120°F/48°C)


  • Adequate to keep every room at 68°F/20°C during the day and at 64°F/17°C at night between September 15 and June 15 (owner is responsible for heat and heating bills unless tenant signs a written agreement stating otherwise)
  • Heating equipment in good working condition
  • Space heaters, if any, properly vented to a chimney or duct leading to the outdoors

Electricity and wiring

  • Per room: two separate outlets or one outlet and one light fixture (except kitchen and bathroom, which must meet separate standards above)
  • Electric light fixture in:

storage closet

  • No temporary wiring
  • No wiring under rugs or passing through doorways


  • Adequate ventilation (window or mechanical) for every room


  • Two exits
  • Smoke detectors
  • Carbon monoxide detectors


  • Landlord provides trashcans and covers if three or more families live in the building

Rats and roaches

  • No rats or roaches—landlord must exterminate when found in more than one apartment or when landlord’s improper maintenance is the cause

Structural maintenance

  • Foundations—water-tight, rodent-proof, in good repair
  • Floor—free of holes, cracks, or bulges
  • Walls, ceilings, roof in good repair
  • Watertight doors and windows with no draughts
  • Staircases—stable, with hand rail
  • Porch—with railing (if more than three feet off the ground)

Lead paint

  • The Massachusetts Lead Law Opens in new window requires the deleading or control of lead hazards existing in homes built before 1978 where children under age six live
  • Owners are responsible for complying with the Lead Law and paying to delead if children under age six are living in the unit

General maintenance

  • Rodent-proof and insect-proof
  • Watertight
  • Unit in overall good repair
  • Owner may not turn off water, heat, electricity, or gas, except during repairs

Door locks

  • In buildings with four or more apartments, a lock on every outside door and one self-closing, automatic-lock door with electric buzzer in the building’s entryway.

For in-depth information about the Housing Code

The Housing Code is Article II of the Massachusetts State Sanitary Code Opens in new window. You can purchase a copy of the complete code for a small fee at the MIT Off-Campus Housing Office in W59 or at the State House Bookstore, Room 116, Massachusetts State House, Boston, MA (617) 727-2834). Ask for the document by its code number: 105-CMR-400-419.

Your responsibility as a tenant

  • Before signing a lease or rental agreement, make sure that everything on the Housing Code Checklist is in order. If repairs are necessary, get a written promise from the landowner that the repairs will be completed by a specified date.
  • If violations occur after you have moved in, it is your responsibility to notify the landlord to give him or her a chance to bring the unit into compliance. If the landlord does not take action, call the Board of Health and request an inspection. The Board of Health is required to conduct an inspection within five days of a request and should order the landlord to correct the violations. The Board of Health has the power to bring the landowner to court if the violations are not corrected.
  • Make sure you receive a written report of the violations from the Board of Health inspector.
  • You can request a hearing if the Board of Health fails to take required action. There are also legal actions you can take (such as withholding rent) to get the violations corrected. Contact your local tenants group or legal aid service for advice on how to proceed.
  • If you rent an apartment in Boston, the city now requires an inspection after a new tenant moves in. Contact the Boston Rental Housing Resource Center Opens in new window for more information.

To request a Board of Health inspection

  • Arlington Health Department (781) 316-3170
  • Belmont Board of Health (617) 489-8249
  • Boston Housing Inspection Department (617) 635-5322
  • Brookline Health Department (617) 730-2300
  • Cambridge Building Department (617) 349-6100
  • Somerville Board of Health (617) 776-6120
  • Watertown Board of Health (617) 972-6446