Tenants Rights in Massachusetts

By Luanne Kelchner
Massachusetts laws protect tenants from illegal actions by property owners.

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The landlord and tenant laws in Massachusetts are in place in part to protect renters from discrimination and unlawful behavior by property owners. When renting a home, the tenant also has obligations and responsibilities, some covered in the law, such as keeping the home sanitary and paying the rent on time.

Security Deposits

Massachusetts allows property owners to charge new tenants the first month’s rent, last month’s rent, security deposit and the cost for a new lock on the rental unit. Landlords may only charge a month’s rent for the security deposit. The security deposit protects the landlord in the event the tenant damages the property or owes rent when moving out. Landlords must keep the security deposit in a separate bank account and it may not be used for the last month’s rental payment. Massachusetts does not allow landlords to charge separate fees for cleaning, pet deposits, application fees or holding fees. The landlord may not increase the amount of the security deposit after the tenant moves into the unit. The Massachusetts law on security deposits requires the landlord to provide a receipt and a statement that describes the condition of the rental unit. Property owners must place the money in an interest-bearing account and pay the renter the interest each year of the tenancy and when the tenant moves out.

Repairs

Tenants have a right to a safe and habitable environment when renting a home. In Massachusetts, all rental homes must have electricity, heat and hot water. The bathrooms and kitchens in the unit must have running water. The property must be secure, with doors and windows that the tenant can lock. The property owner must maintain the unit according to the Massachusetts Sanitary Code and local health ordinances, which ensure the rental home is in habitable condition.

Notice

Landlords must provide the tenant with notice when ending a tenancy. According to the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, property owners must provide a tenant with at least 30 days' notice when ending a tenancy for reasons other than failure to pay rent.

Eviction

Property owners must follow the legal eviction process in Massachusetts to remove tenants from a rental unit. The landlord may not turn off utilities or lock a tenant out of a property to force him to leave the rental unit. The property owner must serve the tenant with a notice to quit before proceeding with the eviction process. When tenants fail to pay rent, the landlord must provide a 14-day notice to quit, which allows the tenant 10 days to pay the unpaid rent to avoid eviction as long as it is the first notice within a 12-month period. Tenants who fail to vacate the property or pay unpaid rent must be served with a summary process and complaint. This provides the tenant with an opportunity to state his case in court. The Massachusetts court will determine possession of the rental unit after the court proceeding. Tenants may appeal the decision of the court.

About the Author

Luanne Kelchner works out of Daytona Beach, Florida and has been freelance writing full time since 2008. Her ghostwriting work has covered a variety of topics but mainly focuses on health and home improvement articles. Kelchner has a degree from Southern New Hampshire University in English language and literature.