Massachusetts Landlord-Tenant Law: An Overview
Massachusetts landlord-tenant law governs the legal relationship between landlords and tenants in the state of Massachusetts. It covers a range of issues, including security deposits, rent payments, lease agreements, and eviction procedures. Under Massachusetts law, landlords are required to maintain habitable living conditions for their tenants and cannot retaliate against them for exercising their legal rights. Tenants also have the right to withhold rent payments if their landlord fails to make necessary repairs. Massachusetts landlord-tenant law is designed to protect the rights of both landlords and tenants and ensure a fair and just rental market.
Massachusetts Landlord Tenant Law: FAQs
In this section, we have covered the most commonly asked questions related to “Massachusetts Landlord-Tenant Law”.
What is the maximum amount I can collect as a security deposit?
The security deposit cannot exceed more than one months’ worth of rent.
What are there requirements for security deposits or any other pre-paid deposits?
According to Massachusetts landlord-tenant law, a landlord can only require a tenant to pay for the following items upon moving in:
- first month’s rent
- last month’s rent
- a security deposit of no more than one month’s rent
- the cost of buying and installing a new lock
If the landlord requires a security deposit, then the tenant must be given a written statement of condition within 10 days of receiving the money. This statement must list all damages that exist in the apartment and in all common areas prior to the tenant moving in. Once the tenant receives the statement, the tenant has 15 days to either agree with the conditions, or personally prepare a list of damages.
The landlord must hold the deposit in an interest-bearing Massachusetts bank separate from his or her personal funds; provide a receipt to the tenant within 30 days of receiving the deposit, identify the bank, address, account number, the amount of the deposit held; and pay 5% interest or any lesser amount of interest actually received from the bank (if the tenant resides on the premises for at least 1 year). The landlord is also required to pay interest on the last month’s rent when collected upon moving in.
More information may be found at: www.mass.gov/legis/laws
Upon termination of a Massachusetts lease, the landlord must return the security deposit or the balance within 30 days of the tenant vacating the property. The Massachusetts Security Deposit Law is very complex. A Landlord should consult with an attorney before taking a deposit or making deductions to insure compliance with the law.
Is my rental unit required by the state to include appliances?
Massachusetts landlord-tenant law requires landlords to supply cooking appliances (range and oven).
My tenant has not paid rent; how much notice do I have to give a tenant in order to evict them?
Before a Summons and Complaint for eviction can be filed, a 14 day notice is required for non payment of rent. The day of posting does not count, nor does any day in which the court is not open such as holidays or weekends. After the 14 day notice is served, then a court proceeding can be initiated.
How long does the eviction process take?
As with any legal matter, exact timing is almost impossible as it depends on many factors. Overall, with no complications, the eviction process usually takes approximately 4-5 weeks.
How do I tell if my tenant has “skipped” out of the apartment?
Often times it’s best to look for the obvious, such as utilities being shut off or removal of personal goods, whether or not the tenant has come back to the premises at any time during a one week period, and simply no food in the refrigerator. It’s extremely important to document all of the “proof” gathered in order to determine abandonment. When in doubt, if payment of rent has not been made, the landlord may always file for eviction.
Do I have the right to enforce no smoking in my rental property?
A landlord may establish a “No Smoking” policy by providing so in the Lease.
Do I have to give the tenant notice before I enter the rental property?
Under Massachusetts landlord-tenant law, the landlord shall have the right to enter the leased premises at reasonable times and hours, after reasonable notice has been given to the tenant, unless in cases of emergency. 24 hours notice can be sufficient notice in most circumstances.
What are the rights of a tenant at will in Massachusetts?
A tenancy-at-will is a rental agreement where the tenant pays monthly rent for an undefined period. Either the landlord or tenant can terminate the agreement by providing notice, which must be at least 30 days or one month before the next rent payment, whichever is longer.
What is the required notice period a landlord must give a tenant before they must vacate in Massachusetts?
According to Massachusetts landlord-tenant law, a landlord must give a tenant at least 30 days notice to move out. If the tenant has lived in the unit for more than one year, the landlord must give 60 days notice.
What are landlord rights in Massachusetts?
In Massachusetts, landlords have the right to collect rent from tenants, to access the rental property for necessary repairs and maintenance, and to evict tenants who violate the terms of their lease. Landlords are also responsible for maintaining the property in a safe and habitable condition, and for following all state and local housing laws and regulations.
Is it legal for a landlord to evict a tenant without cause in Massachusetts?
In Massachusetts, a landlord can only evict a tenant for specific reasons outlined in Massachusetts landlord-tenant law. These reasons include non-payment of rent, violation of the lease agreement, and committing illegal activity on the rental property. It is illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant without a valid reason and without following the necessary legal steps.
What is considered landlord harassment in Massachusetts?
Landlord harassment in Massachusetts refers to any behavior by a landlord that interferes with a tenant’s peaceful enjoyment of their rental property. This includes the following actions, among others:
- Unauthorized entry into the rental property without prior notification or consent.
- Shutting off essential services such as heat or electricity.
- Making threats or using intimidation tactics.
- Making frequent, unwarranted inspections.
- Failing to make necessary repairs.
- Attempting to force a tenant to vacate the property by raising the rent or changing the terms of the lease without proper notice.
It’s worth noting that Massachusetts has an explicit statutory prohibition of landlord retaliation against tenants who assert their rights.
What is an essential eviction in Massachusetts?
An “essential eviction” in Massachusetts refers to a type of eviction that can be carried out without prior notice or court proceedings in certain emergency situations. These situations include when a tenant poses an imminent danger to the health or safety of others, is committing illegal activities on the property, or is causing substantial damage to the property.
It is important to note that an essential eviction can only be carried out by a law enforcement official, usually a police officer and it is not the power of the landlord. Additionally, even in cases of an essential eviction, the landlord must still follow the proper legal procedures and provide the tenant with a written notice of the eviction and the reasons for it.
When can a landlord evict you in Massachusetts?
A landlord in Massachusetts can evict a tenant for specific reasons outlined in Massachusetts landlord-tenant law. These reasons include:
- Non-payment of rent: A landlord can file for eviction if a tenant has failed to pay rent on time.
- Breach of lease: A landlord can file for eviction if a tenant has violated any terms of the lease agreement, such as causing damage to the property, having unauthorized occupants, or engaging in illegal activities.
- Illegal activity: A landlord can file for eviction if a tenant is engaging in illegal activities on the rental property.
- End of lease: A landlord can file for eviction if the lease agreement has come to an end and the tenant has refused to vacate the property.
What if a tenant refuses to leave Massachusetts?
If a tenant refuses to leave a rental property in Massachusetts after receiving proper notice of eviction, the landlord must go through the legal process to remove the tenant. This process involves filing a complaint in housing court and obtaining a court order for the tenant to vacate the property.
The court order will specify the date by which the tenant must vacate the property, and if the tenant still refuses to leave by that date, an official from the law enforcement agency will have the authority to evict them from the property. Additionally, if the tenant is found guilty of not vacating the property after receiving the court order, they could be held in contempt of court and could face fines or even jail time.
It’s important to note that tenants have a right to contest the eviction and present their side of the story before a judge, and they should seek legal advice if they feel that they have been wrongfully evicted.
What is considered landlord retaliation in Massachusetts?
This encompasses the following actions and more:
- Increasing rent, changing the lease terms, or evicting the tenant
- Reducing services or making it more difficult for the tenant to access their rental unit
- Filing false complaints or initiating legal proceedings
- Harassing or threatening the tenant
It is illegal for a landlord to take retaliatory actions against a tenant in Massachusetts, and tenants have the right to file a complaint with the housing authorities or to seek legal action against the landlord if they believe they have been a victim of retaliation.
How does the tenant prove harassment in Massachusetts?
Proving landlord harassment in Massachusetts can be challenging, as it often involves proving a pattern of behavior rather than a single incident. In order to prove harassment, a tenant may need to gather evidence and document the incidents of harassment. This can include:
- Keeping a detailed diary or log of the incidents, including the date, time, and specific details of what occurred
- Gathering any relevant documentation, such as emails, text messages, or letters from the landlord
- Taking pictures or videos of the property, if applicable
- Obtaining any witness statements from other tenants or people who may have observed the harassment
- If the harassment is verbal or physical, call the police and report it, and keep a copy of the police report
What is the process for eviction in Massachusetts?
The process for eviction in Massachusetts begins with the landlord giving the tenant a written notice to vacate the property, either for non-payment of rent or for violation of the lease agreement.
If the tenant does not vacate the property within the time frame specified in the notice, the landlord can file a complaint in court to begin the eviction process. The complaint must be served to the tenant, and the tenant has the right to respond.
The court will then schedule a hearing, during which the landlord and tenant can present evidence and testimony. If the court finds in favor of the landlord, a judgment of possession will be issued, and the tenant will be given a certain amount of time to vacate the property.
If the tenant does not vacate the property within the time frame specified in the judgment, the landlord can request a warrant for possession, which will authorize the sheriff to physically remove the tenant from the property.
It is important to note that the eviction process can be complicated and that tenants have certain rights, such as the right to contest the eviction and the right to receive notice of the court hearing. It is highly recommended to seek legal advice in case of eviction.
What notice is required before a landlord can enter a rental unit in Massachusetts?
According to Massachusetts landlord tenant law, a landlord is required to give a tenant at least 24 hours’ notice before entering a rental unit, unless it is an emergency situation. This notice should be given in writing.
How can a tenant dispute repairs or maintenance issues in Massachusetts?
In Massachusetts, a tenant can dispute repairs or maintenance issues by first bringing them to the attention of the landlord in writing. If the landlord does not respond or address the issue in a timely manner, the tenant can file a complaint with the local board of health or building inspector. If the issue is still not resolved, the tenant can file a complaint with the state’s attorney general’s office or pursue legal action through small claims court.
What are the requirements for terminating a lease in Massachusetts?
In Massachusetts, the requirements for terminating a lease depend on the type of lease.
If the lease is a fixed-term lease, which has a specific start and end date, then the lease will automatically terminate on the end date unless the tenant or landlord has given the notice to vacate or renew the lease.
If the lease is a month-to-month lease, either the tenant or the landlord can terminate it by giving a written notice to the other party at least 30 days before the next rent payment is due.
If the tenant has breached the lease agreement or the landlord needs to make repairs, the landlord may terminate the lease upon giving the tenant 14 days’ notice.
What are the laws for rent increases or decreases in Massachusetts?
As per Massachusetts landlord tenant law, there is no state law that regulates rent increases or decreases. However, some municipalities have rent control laws in place that limit the amount by which landlords can increase rent. These laws vary by city or town and some have no rent control laws at all.
If a tenant is in a lease agreement, the rent cannot be increased during the term of the lease. Once the lease is up, the landlord is free to increase the rent, however, they must give the tenant proper notice (usually 30 days) before the next rent due date.
For month-to-month tenants, the landlord can increase the rent with proper notice as mentioned before.
It’s important to check the local laws and regulations regarding rent control as they may change and seek legal advice when in doubt.
What are the laws for discrimination and fair housing in Massachusetts?
In Massachusetts, it is illegal to discriminate against someone in housing based on their membership in a protected class, which includes race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, ancestry, veteran status, genetic information, or disability. This applies to all aspects of the housing process, including advertising, renting, and selling. Additionally, the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act also apply in Massachusetts and provide additional protections against discrimination. Landlords may not discriminate against individuals with disabilities by refusing to make reasonable accommodations or by imposing different terms or conditions on them.
What are the laws for Habitability and housing code violations in Massachusetts?
According to Massachusetts landlord tenant law, landlords are legally required to provide safe and habitable housing to their tenants. This includes complying with all state and local housing codes, which establish minimum standards for things like heating, plumbing, electrical systems, and sanitation. Landlords are also responsible for making repairs in a timely manner when issues arise.
Tenants have the right to file a complaint with their local housing inspection department if they believe their landlord is not maintaining the property to the required standards. If a landlord is found to be in violation of the housing code, they may be ordered to make repairs or face fines.
In addition, Massachusetts has the State Sanitary Code which establishes minimum standards for health and safety in housing. Tenants also have the right to file a complaint with the Board of Health if they believe their landlord is not meeting these standards.
Tenants also have the right to withhold rent or terminate the lease if the landlord fails to make necessary repairs after being given notice, or if the landlord fails to comply with a housing code violation order, as long as the tenant follows the proper procedure for doing so.
Disclaimer: The information provided herein is intended as a general discussion of legal issues concerning landlord tenant law. Information provided is not legal advice or a legal opinion, and it is recommended that the reader seek independent counsel for any specific issue.
For more information, view our Massachusetts rental resources page, or pose legal questions in our State Law Forum.