New Tool Could Help Boston Renters See Beyond the Craigslist Ad

Puts code violations, other data at potential tenants fingertips. 

(Photo by Ryan Mercier) 

For many renters, particularly in cities with hot markets and limited stock, selecting an apartment is a leap of faith. Landlords tout refurbished floors and new light fixtures on Craigslist, but often “forget” to mention things like code violations and rats.

A new tool from the city of Boston aims to make the process more transparent. Announced by the mayor’s office last week, RentSmart draws on data from the city’s Inspectional Services Division to capture the not-so-photogenic side of any given rental, including housing violations, enforcement violations and sanitation requests.

The tool allows users to type in the address of the unit they’re interested in. From there, the complex will pop up, with potential draw-backs listed. For example, a mixed-use development at 70 Westland Avenue displays one enforcement violation from the past five years — an over-full dumpster — and one sanitation request, listed simply as “rodent activity.”

(Courtesy of the City of Boston) 

Another property at 282 Columbus Avenue lists enforcement violations (mostly for improper storage of trash), sanitation requests, civic maintenance requests and one housing complaint, involving excessive heat, over the last five years.

(Courtesy of the City of Boston) 

“The city is the keeper of significant data that can help renters make good decisions about the properties they’re considering renting,” Mayor Marty Walsh said in a statement. “As we draw closer to the September 1 rental rush, I’m pleased that we are able to make this data accessible in a way that is easy to use for everyone.”

Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian

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Tags: bostonbig data

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