City of Fitchburg, MA
Worcester County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the City Council of the City of Fitchburg 5-4-1982 by Ord. No. 91-82. Amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCES
Building construction - See Ch. 72.
Zoning — See Ch. 181.
When used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
APPLICANT
Any landlord, person, entity, trust, partnership or corporation who files an application pursuant to § 79-4 of this chapter.
CLERK
The City Clerk of the City of Fitchburg.
CONDOMINIUM
A condominium as defined in Chapter 183A of the General Laws.
CONVERT
To offer for sale any rental housing unit existing at any time on or after the effective date of passage as a condominium, or the offer for sale of shares in a cooperative authorizing the owner thereof to occupy a rental housing unit existing at any time on or after the effective date of passage, except for the offer for sale under the exemptions from application for permit stated in § 79-2 or an offer for sale under § 79-4A(2).
COOPERATIVE
A cooperative as defined in MGL c. 157, § 3A.
[1]
COUNCIL
The City Council for the City of Fitchburg.
HARASSMENT
Includes but is not limited to bringing an action to evict a tenant of a rental housing unit without cause; failing to make repairs or supply services which render a rental housing unit not habitable; or making any changes, structural or otherwise, which render a rental housing unit not habitable. Absent evidence to the contrary, it shall be presumed that any eviction of a tenant from a rental housing unit during any of the tenancy periods covered by §§ 79-2 and 79-6, except for nonpayment of rent, is without cause.
HARDSHIP
The standards for hardship shall be determined by the Council pursuant to its power to issue regulations under § 79-3 of this chapter.
LANDLORD
Any person or entity who holds title to rental housing units or is entitled to receive rents, including without limitation any individual, corporation, trust or partnership.
LEASE
Any rental housing agreement, written, oral or implied, between a landlord and tenant for use or occupancy of a rental housing unit.
RENTAL HOUSING UNIT
Any unit or part of a building or structure, including land appurtenant thereto, or any other real property, rented or offered for rent for living or dwelling purposes; excluding rooming and boarding houses, rental housing units in a building containing eight or fewer dwelling units, a rental housing unit as to which it can be shown with respect to its initial sale after the recording of a master deed that purchase and sale agreement has been entered into prior to the effective date of passage, a canceled deposit check being conclusive proof of the transaction or a unit deed recorded in the Worcester County Registry of Deeds prior to the effective date of passage, and a rental housing unit in a cooperative for which a purchase and sale agreement for stock has been entered into prior to the effective date of passage, a canceled deposit check being conclusive proof of the transaction or a transfer of shares of stock and proprietary lease having been executed.
TENANT
Any person entitled to the possession, use or occupancy of any rental housing unit, including a subtenant, lessee or sublessee.
[1]
Editor's Note: Repealed by St. 1983, c. 574, § 14. See MGL c. 157B, § 1 et seq.
A. 
No landlord, other person or other entity shall convert any rental housing unit without receiving a permit from the Council, provided that no permit shall be required in the following situations:
(1) 
The subject rental housing unit(s) is/are unoccupied; provided that if 25% or more of the rental housing units in the building are occupied at the time the master deed was recorded or the cooperative incorporated, a permit shall be required for all the rental housing units of the building.
(2) 
The tenant of the subject rental housing unit states in writing that he or she desires to purchase said unit.
[Amended 6-3-2014 by Ord. No. 100-2014]
(3) 
The offer for sale is made to a third party, provided that the tenant of said rental housing unit shall have the right of first refusal to purchase said rental housing unit, which must be exercised within 90 days of said offer to the tenant. Notwithstanding anything to the contrary, any person who is a tenant at any time between the date of recording of a master deed or incorporation of a cooperative and the date of sale of said rental housing unit shall have all the rights and protections provided under this chapter and regulations issued by the Council pursuant to § 79-3. In the event that a third party purchases said rental housing unit under this exemption, such party, his or her agents, successors or assigns must comply with the other provisions of this chapter, with the exception of § 79-4A(2) and (4), before obtaining occupancy of said rental housing unit.
[Amended 6-3-2014 by Ord. No. 100-2014]
B. 
Notwithstanding anything to the contrary provided above, no landlord, other person or other entity shall bring an action to evict a tenant from a rental housing unit at any time between the date of recording of the master deed or incorporation of a cooperative and the end of the protection period elected by the tenant pursuant to § 79-6 unless there has been a material breach of the tenancy.
C. 
Notwithstanding anything to the contrary stated above, no landlord, other person or other entity shall convert a rental housing unit pursuant to this section unless he or she has obtained a certification by an independent licensed engineer or architect that the building in which is any rental housing unit to be converted meets all applicable Building and Health Codes of the City of Fitchburg and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
[Amended 6-3-2014 by Ord. No. 100-2014]
D. 
No rental housing unit once legally occupied as a condominium or cooperative unit pursuant to this chapter shall ever again be subject to the chapter for any reason.
The Council shall issue regulations prescribing the form of applications and such other forms as it deems necessary to effectuate the purposes of this chapter; standards for the determination of hardship; standards for an adequate tenant relocation plan; procedures necessary to implement this chapter; and may establish a fee for such permits. In promulgating regulations on hardship, the Council shall consider factors, including but not limited to the following: age, income, health and handicap of the tenant and any members of the household.
An application for a permit or hardship status determination shall be submitted to the Clerk.
A. 
Each application for a permit shall contain at a minimum the following:
(1) 
A written certification under oath that the applicant has sent by certified mail, return receipt requested, a written notice of intent to convert and a copy of this chapter and regulations issued pursuant thereto to each tenant of a rental housing unit in a building which contains a rental housing unit covered by an application, not more than 60 days and no less than 30 days prior to the date the application is submitted to the Clerk.
(2) 
Written certification that the applicant has offered for sale to each tenant whose rental housing unit is included in the application the unit covered by his or her lease on the date the application is submitted to the Clerk. The unit covered thereby shall continue to be offered to said tenant for 90 days after the permit is issued at a price stated in the application.
[Amended 6-3-2014 by Ord. No. 100-2014]
(3) 
An adequate tenant relocation plan describing the manner in which the applicant will assist tenants to locate comparable rental housing.
(4) 
A written certification by an independent licensed engineer or architect that the building which contains any rental housing unit to be converted meets all applicable Building and Health Codes of the City of Fitchburg and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
B. 
A tenant who believes that he or she is a hardship case may file with the Clerk an application for hardship status. Any such application must be filed within 30 days of receipt of the notice to convert.
[Amended 6-3-2014 by Ord. No. 100-2014]
A. 
Within 60 days but no less than 14 days after the submission of an application, the Council shall hold a public hearing to determine whether:
(1) 
All of the requirements of § 79-4 have been met, and
(2) 
A hardship exists on the part of any tenant.
B. 
If the Council determines that each requirement of § 79-4 has been met, the Clerk shall issue a permit to the applicant within 14 days of the date of the Council's final decision. A copy of the permit shall be mailed by the Clerk to the tenant of the rental housing unit for which the permit has been granted. If the Council determines that any requirement of § 79-4 has not been met, the Council shall deny the application and the Clerk shall notify the applicant in writing within 14 days of the denial and the reason or reasons for the denial. Upon receipt of a permit, an applicant may convert the rental housing unit in accordance with this chapter and regulations issued pursuant thereto. Failure of the Council to take final actions within 90 days following the public hearing shall be deemed to be a grant of the permit applied for, and the applicant shall be entitled to whatever documents are necessary to evidence such permit. Notwithstanding anything contrary to the above, the applicant may waive the ninety-day time limit.
A. 
After a permit to convert has been issued under § 79-5, no person or entity, including any applicant, his or her agents, employees, successors or assigns, shall:
[Amended 6-3-2014 by Ord. No. 100-2014]
(1) 
Bring an action to recover possession against a tenant of a rental housing unit for which a permit has been issued for a period of two years from the date of the issuance of said permit, unless there has been a material breach of the terms of the tenancy; except that in the case of a tenant for whom a hardship has been found to exist, no action to recover possession of a rental housing unit shall be brought for a period of five years from the date of the issuance of said permit, unless there has been a material breach of the terms of the tenancy.
(a) 
Notwithstanding anything to the contrary stated above, the tenant of a rental housing unit for which a permit has been issued shall have the right to rely on one of the following:
[1] 
Protections provided above;
[2] 
Protections provided by the tenant's existing lease; or
[3] 
The applicant's relocation plan.
(b) 
The tenant must state in writing which protection he or she wants within 90 days of the issuance of the permit.
(2) 
Increase the rent for any tenant during the applicable tenancy period described in Subsection A(l) above to an unconscionable level, except as specified in an existing lease.
(3) 
Commit acts of harassment in order to effectuate in any way the vacancy of a rental housing unit.
B. 
Subsection A(1)(a)[1] and [2], (2) and (3) shall also apply to any rental housing unit which has been converted prior to the effective date of passage but for which a purchase and sale agreement has not been entered into prior to the effective date of passage, a canceled deposit check being conclusive proof of the transaction or a unit deed recorded in the Worcester County Registry of Deeds prior to the effective date of passage, unless otherwise exempted under § 79-2A(1) and (2) of this chapter.
In the City of Fitchburg, in a building for which a master deed has been recorded or a cooperative incorporated, if the rent charged for a rental housing unit has been increased, it shall be an absolute defense to an action brought to recover possession of such unit for nonpayment of rent, based on failure of the tenant to pay such increase, if a court determines that the amount of such increase was unconscionable and was intended to enable the landlord to recover possession the rental housing unit for the purpose of facilitating the conversion of the same to condominium or cooperative ownership or use or occupation of said rental housing unit by a condominium or cooperative owner.
[Amended 6-3-2014 by Ord. No. 100-2014]
Any person who violates this chapter shall be punished by a fine of not more than $300 per offense. Each month during which a violation exists shall constitute a separate offense. Upon information and belief that the provisions of this chapter have been violated, the Mayor or his or her designee shall take immediate steps to enforce this chapter in a court of competent jurisdiction.
If any provision(s) or portion(s) thereof of this chapter or of the application of any provision(s) or portion(s) thereof to any person or circumstances is/are held to be invalid, such invalidity shall not affect the validity of the remainder of said provision or other provisions of this chapter.