Residential Rental Inspections


In 2017, the City Council approved an amendment to the City’s Code of Ordinances changing the frequency with which sanitary code inspections are conducted of rental properties in Salem.

What changed?

Under the old code, the property owner of any rental unit was required to have an inspection done in order to receive a Certificate of Fitness any time there was a change in tenant. This requirement remains unchanged.  Under the new code, inspections will also be conducted on a scheduled basis, once every three years for all rental units, with some exceptions.

What units are exempt from the three-year inspection schedule?

  • Two- or three-family buildings where the building owner occupies one of the units will continue to be inspected only when there is a change of tenant.
  • If a unit has no sanitary or building code violations and is not in a building that has received a disorderly house citation in the previous three years, the unit will be upgraded to a five-year inspection schedule, unless there is a change in tenant or owner, which triggers a new inspection.
  • Any unit occupied by a building owner and any unit with proof of passing a HUD inspection within the previous three years are exempt from inspection. (i.e. units occupied by a tenant on a Section 8 voucher are already inspected annually)  
  • Any unit constructed within five years of the date of vacancy.
  • Note that short-term rentals (see below) are not eligible for these exemptions and are required to undergo an annual Certificate of Fitness inspection.

Problem/nuisance properties liable for annual inspections.

Units in any building where (1) the police have been called at least four times in the preceding 12 months for any arrestable offenses or (2) the building or health departments have received at least four sustained complaints in the preceding 12 months are classified as a problem property and may be inspected annually at the discretion of the building inspector or health agent.

Is there any change to the inspection fee or fine?

There is no change in the fee for a Certificate of Fitness inspection, which continues to be $50 per inspection. If your unit fails to pass inspection, you will be given a copy of the report specifying why. After correcting the violation, you may notify the health department and receive one free re-inspection. If third or subsequent inspections are required, however, the $50 per inspection fee will be charged each time. Please be aware that the fine for renting a unit without a Certificate of Fitness has been increased from $20 per day to $50 per day.

Register of tenants

To assist with complying with the new code, property owners who rent property are now required to keep a register of the names and dates of tenancy for rental units for the previous five years. This includes short term rentals such as Airbnb, VRBO, and similar operators. The register is not a public record and is to be privately kept by the property owner, but made available to city inspectors upon request for inspection only.

Requirements for Short Term Rentals

If you rent your property or any portion thereof on a short-term basis (for example, through Airbnb, VRBO, or similar operators), you are required to register the property as a short-term rental and have a Certificate of Fitness inspection completed. Short-term rentals are inspected annually (not every three years) or upon a change of owner of the property. They are not required to be inspected upon a change of tenant, nor are they exempt if they are in a two- or three-family owner-occupied building. Failure to register and have the Certificate of Fitness inspection completed will result in a $50 per day fine until the unit is brought into compliance with the code. Please note that effective April 15, 2019 additional zoning and registration requirements will apply to short-term rental units in Salem.


  • If you have questions, please call the Legal Dept: 978-619-5638.
  • If you own any residential property in Salem that you rent to others, including any short-term rental units, please return the form below to Salem Health Department, 98 Washington Street, Salem MA 01970 or submit it by email to One form must be returned for every address (note that one address may have multiple units). If you own more than one property that has rental units, please submit a copy of this form for each building. The form should be completed in its entirety.