Posted by: Patricia Salkin | January 11, 2012

MA Appeals Court Upholds Law Prohibiting Renting of Property to More than Three Unrelated College Students

Plaintiffs, landlords of properties rented to four unrelated adult college students living as a “family” or single housekeeping unit, appealed an order of injunctive relief to the City preventing them from renting each unit to more than three unrelated adults. Specifically, they argued that the State statutory definition of lodging house, defined as  “a house where lodgings are let to four or more persons not within second degree of kindred to the person conducting it, and shall include fraternity houses and dormitories of educational institutions, but shall not include dormitories of charitable or philanthropic institutions or convalescent or nursing homes licensed under section seventy-one of chapter one hundred and eleven or rest homes so licensed, or group residences licensed or regulated by agencies of the commonwealth” did not apply to them.  The Appellate Court held that the statute was applicable.

The property owners claimed that the lodging statute did not apply because their tenants were living together as a single family unit, an argument previously rejected by the Court in Worcester v Bonaventura, 56 Mass. App. 166 (2002).  The Court said in Bonaventura, that the “question of whether the owners were operating a lodging house  did not ‘turn on the status of the student occupants as tenants,’ but that it was a legal issue for the court to answer by interpreting the terms of the local zoning ordinance…” And the Court here said the issue was the same except the interpretation in the present case involved the statutory definition of lodging house as opposed to a zoning ordinance interpretation. The Court opined, “Though the line between a lodging house, single housekeeping unit, and group home may not always be easy to discern…we have no doubt that four or more unrelated adults, sharing housing while attending college, is not an arrangement that lends itself to the formation of a stable and durable household.”   

City of Worcester v College Hill Properties, 2011 WL 5301594 (Mass. App. 11/8/2011).

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