In a rental market characterized by rising rates, shocking fees, and fed-up tenants, it’s perhaps unsurprising that rental housing was the product or service Massachusetts residents complained about most in 2022.
In fact, rental housing complaints outpaced complaints against used car dealers for the first time, the report noted. Used car sales, solar energy, home improvement, and auto repair rounded out the top five consumer complaint categories last year.
“This report highlights the critical work we do to help protect consumers from predatory, discriminatory or unlawful practices,” Campbell said in a statement provided to Boston.com. “Residents can always turn to my office for assistance — because we believe when the marketplace is free from unfair business practices, we improve economic stability and security for all.”
The attorney general’s office received 918 landlord-tenant complaints in 2022, with an additional 171 pleas for help through the AG’s eviction help request form. Many of the complaints concerned unsafe and unsanitary conditions in rental units, rent hikes, and evictions.
The report included one example of a tenant who notified their landlord of a severe pest problem several times, eventually breaking their lease and moving out when the landlord didn’t fix the issue. When the landlord refused to return a $2,400 security deposit, the AG’s Local Consumer Program was able to help the tenant get their full deposit back.
In another case last June, the AG’s office entered into a $35,000 settlement with management company Peabody Properties, Inc. and owner JPNDC Pitts MM LLC over allegations that they unlawfully denied a tenant and their young child accommodations to address secondhand smoke and a rodent infestation that posed health risks for the child.
The report also noted some changes to the State Sanitary Code set to take effect in April, including requirements that landlords inspect for pests — and document that inspection — before a new tenant moves in; provide a working oven, cooktop, refrigerator, and freezer; and attempt to correct dangerous or unsafe conditions within 24 hours.
Campbell said in the report that her team will “stand up for tenants who are being treated unfairly by landlords. We will investigate and prosecute car dealerships that scam their customers. And we will help borrowers find relief from the burden of predatory student loans.”
The AG’s office saw a total of 28,522 consumer hotline interactions and 23,100 consumer complaints last year. Those numbers, Campbell said, don’t paint the full picture of the problems consumers face, or the help the AG’s office provides.
“Behind each complaint is the story of a real person who reached out to the Attorney General’s Office — the People’s Law Firm — for help,” she said in the report. “And behind each hotline call, consumer mediation, settlement or lawsuit is the story of a team of dedicated public servants who stepped up to help.”
Stay up to date on all the latest news from Boston.com