Section 127B: Dwellings unfit for human habitation; order to vacate or to abate nuisance; removal of occupants; demolition expense, lien; inspection reports; code violations; notices; enforcement proceedings, jurisdiction; appeal
Section 127B. Upon a determination by the board of health, or, in the cities of Boston, Worcester and Cambridge, by the commissioner of housing inspection, after examination as provided in said code, that a building, tenement, room, cellar, mobile dwelling place or any other structure (a) is unfit for human habitation, (b) is or may become a nuisance, or (c) is or may be a cause of sickness or home accident to the occupants or to the public, it may issue a written order to the owner or occupant or any of them thereof, requiring the owner or occupant to vacate, to put the premises in a clean condition, or to comply with the regulations set forth in said code which are not being complied with or to comply with the rules and regulations adopted by the board of health as being necessary for the particular locality. The order shall be served in the same manner as is provided for the service of an order by section one hundred and twenty-four. A copy of such order shall be served upon any mortgagee or lienor of record by sending the same by registered mail, return receipt requested. If the owner or occupant refuses to comply with such order, the board of health may cause the premises to be properly cleaned at the expense of the owner or occupant, remove the occupant forcibly and close up the premises, or it may issue a written notice to the owner of such building, as appearing in the current records of the assessors of such town, setting forth the particulars of such unfitness and requiring that the conditions be remedied. If the person so notified fails within a reasonable time to remedy the conditions thus set forth, the superior court on a petition in equity brought by the board of health, shall have jurisdiction, to enforce the requirements of the board of health, by appointment of a receiver in accordance with the provisions of section one hundred and twenty-seven I, or by providing other equitable or legal relief. A copy of such written notice shall be served upon any mortgagee or lienor of record, by sending the same by registered mail, return receipt requested. No occupant of any residential premises may be removed, nor any order to vacate issued to any such occupant, unless the board of health has previously issued a written finding that the premises are unfit for human habitation. The board shall enter in said finding the material facts upon which such finding is based. No such finding shall be made before said occupants have been given written notice and an opportunity for a public hearing to be held not less than five days after receipt of such notice, unless the board of health determines in writing that the danger to the life or health of the occupants is so immediate that no delay may be permitted. In all other cases in which the board of health determines that residential premises are not unfit for human habitation but that conditions within such premises in violation of said code or rules and regulations may not be remedied unless the occupants are removed therefrom, it may bring an action to remove the occupants from the premises pursuant to chapter two hundred and thirty-nine. In any such action, the court shall consider the matter according to the procedures and standards otherwise set forth in said chapter, and may grant a stay or stays of execution when appropriate. Premises closed up under the provisions of this section shall not be occupied as a human habitation without written permission of the board of health. If compliance with the regulations contained in said code has not been effected within one year from the date the premises have been so closed up the board of health may cause such structure to be demolished or removed; provided, however, that said board, upon written certification to it by the head of the local health department that immediate demolition or removal is essential to protect the health and safety of the public, may cause such demolition or removal within ninety days of said closing. A claim for the expense incurred by said board in cleaning the premises or in causing such structure to be demolished or removed shall constitute a debt due the city or town upon the completion of the work and the rendering of an account therefor to the owner of such structure, and shall be recoverable from such owner in an action of contract.
The provisions of the second paragraph of section three A of chapter one hundred and thirty-nine relative to liens for such debt and the collection of the claims for such debt, shall apply to any debt referred to in this section, except that the board of health, or, in the cities of Boston, Worcester and Cambridge, the commissioner of housing inspection, shall act hereunder in place of the mayor or board of selectmen.
Local boards of health shall enforce said code in the same manner in which local health rules and regulations are enforced but if any such local board fails after the lapse of a reasonable length of time to enforce the same, the department may in like manner enforce said code against any violator.
The superior court, housing court, and district court shall have jurisdiction in equity to enforce the provisions of said code.
A board of health and, in the cities of Boston, Worcester and Cambridge the commissioner of housing inspection, or local code enforcement agency may file a petition under section one hundred and twenty-seven H.
A copy of the report of any investigation or inspection of residential premises for violations of the code or other applicable laws, ordinances, by-laws, rules or regulations, and of any written order or notice issued by the board, shall be delivered personally or sent by first class mail to the occupants of all affected premises within seven days after the investigation or inspection of the premises or the issuance of the order or notice. A notice of the date, time and place of any administrative or court hearings scheduled by or known to the board relating to violations, including all referrals of violations to other government agencies, shall also be delivered or sent to the occupants. All investigation or inspection reports shall include the name of the inspector, and the date and time of the inspection or investigation; the date and time of any scheduled follow-up inspection; a description of the conditions constituting the violations, if any; a listing of the specific provisions of the code or other applicable laws, ordinances, by-laws, rules or regulations that appear to be violated; a determination by the official inspecting the premises whether each violation, or the cumulative effect of all violations, may endanger or materially impair the health, safety or well-being of any occupant or the public; a determination by said official whether any violations appeared to be substantially caused by the occupant or any person acting under his control; and a brief summary of the statutory remedies available to occupants of the affected premises. All reports, orders or notices relating to such inspections, investigations, or violations shall be public records, and shall be kept on file by the originating agency according to law.
Any person aggrieved by the failure of any inspectors or other personnel of the board or other code enforcement agency to inspect upon request any premises that the board or agency may lawfully inspect, or to find violations of law where such violations are claimed to exist, or to certify that such violations may endanger or materially impair the health, safety or well-being of the occupants, may appeal such failure to act to the full board or to the head of the agency. Such appeal shall be given a speedy hearing before said board or an impartial officer of said agency.