Health Department Reminds Tenants and Landlords of New Sanitary Code

The Greenfield Health Department is reminding tenants and landlords that the new Massachusetts Sanitary Code takes effect April 1. The new code, which was delayed six months to provide sufficient time for property owners to prepare, contains important changes designed to promote healthy living conditions, including updated requirements related to pest management, excess moisture and standards for kitchens and closets.


“The Health Department and Board of Health felt it was important to remind tenants and landlords of these changes, so that people are aware of their rights and the expectations under the new code,” said Health Director Jennifer Hoffman. “As we conduct inspections, we will put an emphasis on education.”


Under the new code, landlords must perform inspections for insects and wildlife for any new tenancy, document the inspection, and be prepared to show proof of an inspection upon request. This expands upon the existing sanitary code which requires landlords to keep rental units free from pests.


The new code also changes the term “chronic dampness” to “excess moisture,” requiring inspectors to check for damp areas that could lead to mold growth. Though environmental testing is not required to determine the existence of excess moisture or mold, if testing is conducted, it will not be the sole determination for enforcement.


In the kitchen, the new sanitary code requires landlords to ensure that the wall behind the sink forms a watertight seal with the countertop, and that kitchen and pantry floors be constructed of waterproof materials. In addition, refrigerators with freezers will be required in rental units, unless the lease states specifically that the renter will supply the refrigerator. The current code requires only that there be “space and proper facilities” for a refrigerator.


Another change relates to closet lighting. Closets that are too deep to be illuminated by light from the surrounding room must have their own light under the new code.


The new code also clarifies that a rooming house is defined as any structure that contains one or more units where space is rented to four or more people for compensation. This includes hotels, motels, boarding houses, bed-and-breakfast operations and hostels. In addition, the code adds an enhanced definition of temporary housing to include cabins and mobile dwelling units.


The new language, approved by the state Public Health Council in October, replaces the sanitary code that has been in place since 2007.