Last month, the City of Worcester launched a new Rental Registry Program, with the goal of creating a comprehensive public record of all rental units in the City. News of the program arrived in residents’ mail several weeks ago, prompting surprise, confusion, and some heated meetings in the City Council.

As the dust settles and concerns over non-compliance fees (more on that, below) get resolved, the program is set to go into effect on July 1.

If you own and rent residential, commercial, or industrial property in Worcester, for any lawful purpose, for any length of time, you are obligated to register your property with the City. If you live on the premises and rent out other units of your property, you need to register all of those rental units. Here’s what’s involved:

Why Does Worcester Need a Rental Registry?

The program’s main goal is to protect the health, safety, and welfare of tenants by ensuring that landlords comply with applicable building and sanitary codes and other ordinances.

The Rental Registry will include contact information for all landlords, so the City can reach an owner in case of an emergency, potential code violation, available grants, changes to local ordinances, and other relevant information related to the property.

The Rental Registry will also provide the City with an up-to-date, comprehensive picture of all rental units. That will assist the City in its planning efforts to increase the number of units, which are in short supply.

There is no requirement to register your non-rental property, but you have an option to register free of charge. This will enable you to receive City communications regarding emergencies, public works projects in your area, and other relevant information.

The new system will also provide essential information to police and firefighters about size of the unit, number of bedrooms, and other details that can help to save time, and, possibly, lives in case of emergency.

Fees and Penalties

The initial fee to register is $15 per rental unit, with a $5 annual renewal fee. For rented vacant lots, the initial fee is $25 and the annual renewal is $15. Registration can be done online or in person at the Department of Inspectional Services. Online registration offers the advantage of a 10 percent discount. You can find the online registration here.

If you own rental property in Worcester and do NOT register with the City, you will be fined for each day of non-compliance. However, how big a fine has been the subject of debate and discussion in the City Council. As of this writing, the daily fine for non-compliance has been lowered from the original $300 to $200. To allow more time for outstanding issues to be resolved, the registration deadline has been moved from April 30 to July 1.

Image: Chris Robert