Rental Property Regulations Task Force

Sponsored by the Greater Hyannis Civic Association

Voices of the Village – Rental Property Regulations Task Force

A funny thing happened in Hyannis back in late April that many of us were not sure was possible: The Greater Hyannis Civic Association called a community-wide meeting to discuss how to improve the quality of life in our town … and 300 people showed up! That’s 300 concerned, angry, fed-up citizens with a common will not just to complain, but to actually put forward the effort needed to do something about the troubling state of affairs in which we now find ourselves.

One of the results of that April meeting was the development of five specific task forces to target the problems that afflict our community and develop creative solutions. Of those groups, the Rental Property Regulations Task Force was formed to address out of control rental properties and, in turn, positively change the dynamic in all our neighborhoods.

Our task force has identified five specific areas where we believe our efforts should be concentrated:

1) The Town of Barnstable needs to develop criteria to specifically identify what, for lack of a better term, we will call “problem” properties. Whether it is an absentee and negligent landlord, unruly tenants, overcrowding, excess vehicles or an illegal apartment, the town must keep comprehensive records for enforcement purposes.

2) A comprehensive review of existing regulations and ordinances is also underway to determine their adequacy and what improvements can be made to close any gaps that allow negligent activities to continue. But the existence of a comprehensive regulatory structure will do nothing to alleviate our problems unless we demand strict enforcement.

3) In these lean economic times, our town regulatory employees are stretched thin. We believe that new and tougher regulations on rental properties can be instituted, with existing staffing levels, by redirecting enforcement towards violators and away from those property managers who have demonstrated consistent compliance. A graduated, but significant, increase in fines for non-compliance, specifically earmarked for this program, will make it self-sustaining.

4) Review currently enacted legislation in other Massachusetts communities dealing with abandoned and neglected properties. Some of these towns maintain abandoned properties and place a hefty charge back on the property owner, making neglect cost ineffective.

5) Propose a new and well-advertised town phone number to act as a “clearing house” for all non-emergency calls to report rental property issues, and this number can be called anonymously. Persons savvy in the inner workings of the town regulatory departments, who will coordinate immediate response by the proper authorities, would man this line.

As you can see, this is an enormous undertaking and we are just beginning down this long road to injecting responsibility back into the landlord-tenant-neighborhood equation. But if we want to take our community back to that place we may now have lost, then this is the road we must have the will to travel.

Stay tuned and let us know what you think by sending your ideas to the Greater Hyannis Civic Association at