Doug Quattrochi

The first level of MassLandlords’ state-specific rental housing certification is now publicly searchable at This certification can be a differentiator for housing providers statewide, especially in the increasingly soft market that is the metro Boston core. And it will be a differentiator for MassLandlords in policy advocacy. 

Rental housing providers, aka “landlords,” have a real stigma associated with our line of work. Just as we’re all familiar with the stereotype of a used car salesperson or an ambulancechasing lawyer, we can all visualize the landlord or landlady opening their door in a bathrobe, or using a bucket to catch a leak instead of calling a plumber. Or worst of all, we may think of the landlord as a figure shrouded in mystery, someone to whom we write our checks but whose lofty presence has never graced the humble apartment we call home.  

The reality is most of us landlords are dressed by 7 a.m., have a contact list full of familiar plumbers, and roll up our sleeves to work on-site days, nights and weekends. So why shouldn’t we be able to distance ourselves from the small but unprofessional minority who tarnish our industry’s reputation? Certification will allow us to demonstrate the high standard to which we hold ourselves, making MassLandlords a more credible and more effective policy advocate for our members. 

How Certification Helps Member Businesses 

The Certified Massachusetts Landlord is a nationwide first: a statespecific designation for rental housing providers. There are three levels: a commitment to best practices, a test of basic legal competence and a commitment to continuing education. These are things many of us already qualify for, but none of us could get credit for them before certification. 

The first level, a commitment to best practices, can be agreed to by any housing provider who joins MassLandlords as a member. It takes less than one hour to create a professional landlording profile on our site and agree to the set of best practices. These are things that a prepared landlord already does but once agreed to, this commitment becomes binding and enforceable. For example, we promise renters to follow the laws, to fix everything that’s malfunctioning or leaking, and to work towards a reasonable exterior appearance, among much else. 

Certifications are public. Certified landlords can be discovered and verified from the MassLandlords homepage. The certification will gain strength over time. The level two test of basic competence will go live this spring, along with our marketing the program to prospective renters. 

Why Certification? Why Not Licensing? 

Licensing is used in other fields, for instance, in real estate brokerage and the trades. Should we adopt this for landlords? No, for three reasons. 

First, the MassLandlords voluntary certification fits a unique market. Licensing regimes usually require formal education or apprenticeship in an established office or trade, without any ability to learn by doing on your own. It’s not clear how that model would repeat in rental real estate, where 70,000 momandpop landlords operate largely without professional management, W-2 employees or even regular 1099 teams. Employment in this space is fractured and part-time in a way the full-time licensed trades and brokerages are not.  

Second, the MassLandlords certification does everything a license would do and more. Licensing requires political work to establish the legal framework, money to appropriate funds for administration and enforcement and endless writing to draft and promulgate the regulations and enforcement mechanisms. We have already done it! And we have had input from state and city officials in the various branches along the way. We remain committed to continuous improvement. Formal and off-the-record suggestions are welcome at any time via with the subject line marked “Certification. 

Third, MassLandlords is an established leader in the creation of rental housing. By keeping the program voluntary, we sustain the low-barrier-to-entry approach. By providing on-the-job training that people want, we have enormous reach. Over 300,000 unique visitors a year read our website. Thousands participate in our interactive events each year, including our comprehensive “crash course.” We’re making a tremendous difference. And we’re funded almost entirely by membership dues, which pay for themselves through member savings. This means we have pulled an economic hat trick: Landlords are choosing to meet our higher standards, at a price that pays for itself, without increasing the cost of rental housing. 

The Level One certification is live on our site now. Once certified, landlords should indicate their status in their apartment listings. They can also link to their MassLandlords profile, inviting renters to verify the credential on our third-party site. And they can include a one-pager about certification with each and every rental application. 

The real impact of this program is expected to be felt in the summer market, before which our test of basic competence goes live. Landlords who meet our requirements can be sure to weather the rest of the pandemic, no matter where the market heads from here. And we can continue to show policymakers the good work we’re doing. 

Doug Quattrochi is executive director of MassLandlords Inc. 

Landlord Certification Now Live, Searchable

by Doug Quattrochi time to read: 3 min