You could be a landlord in Boston with a tenant who hasn’t been making their full monthly rent payments. Maybe you’re a tenant living in Westfield and your landlord hasn’t had a contractor fix the month-old leak in your roof yet. Whatever situation you find yourself in, you may feel like the only way you’ll get the other party to fulfill their obligations is to get a lawyer involved and take them to court.
Whether you’re a landlord or a tenant, you should typically be able to deal with legal issues without going to court. Some landlord-tenant disputes will leave you with no other option. Both parties need to know the basics of renting out a place, how to collect or pay security deposits, about fair housing laws, etc. This overview of key Massachusetts landlord-tenant laws will help guide you.
The lease agreement is the foundation of the landlord-tenant relationship. It is a legally binding contract detailing the responsibilities both the landlord and the tenant promise to uphold. In addition to specifics like amenities, renovations and other apartment features, the lease includes legal details like:
When a new tenant signs a lease agreement, Massachusetts landlords often require a separate payment from the first month’s rent called a security deposit. The security deposit can amount to no more than one month’s rent and isn’t considered to be the last month’s rent payment. Landlords are required to place the deposit into an interest-bearing bank account where it’ll remain until the lease is terminated.
Within 30 days after the lease’s termination and once the tenant vacates the rental property, the landlord is required to:
Not all landlord-tenant relationships in Massachusetts require a lease agreement. If a landlord allows a tenant to reside in a rental property and pay rent under a written or verbal agreement, a tenancy at will is created.
Both landlords and tenants may quit a tenancy at will agreement at any time for any reason. However, whichever party decides to terminate the tenancy at will must provide the other with advance written notice within 30 days or a full rental period. If a landlord wants to raise the rental rate, they must provide the same termination notice within 30 days and offer the tenant the chance to remain in the property at the higher rate.
Massachusetts prohibits landlords from discriminating against tenants based on characteristics that are protected by the state’s fair housing laws. Specific actions like telling interested tenants that the availability for rentals is limited may be considered discriminatory if the landlord does these things because of a tenant’s:
While many landlord-tenant conflicts can be resolved without going to court, the laws involved in these conflicts are complex. If you find you are in need of legal counsel or advice, you should consider hiring a landlord-tenant lawyer to represent your interests.