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Massachusetts Landlord-Tenant Laws

Massachusetts Landlord Tenant LawsThis article is intended to be an online resource for Massachusetts landlords.  We summarize key Massachusetts Landlord-Tenant laws that are most applicable to residential rental units.

This article is not qualified legal advice.  Individuals seeking guidance need to work with a legal advisor who is qualified in the jurisdiction.  Massachusetts Landlord Tenant Laws and statutes may vary from county to county or city to city, this article provides state level laws and statutes. 

Also, laws and statutes are subject to change and may cause sections of this article to be outdated.  We provide links to assist landlords and tenants to the state statute page for further research.

Click here if you are seeking renters insurance in Massachusetts.

 

Quick Facts for Real Estate Investors Considering Massachusetts

Massachusetts landlord-tenant laws are considered Landlord-friendly.

There are 6.9 million residents in Massachusetts.  Major metropolitan markets in Massachusetts are:

  1. Boston: Estimated population of 4,873,019, which 38% of residents are renter occupied.  Average rent is $1,397.
  2. Worcester: Estimated population of 947,404, which 36% of residents are renter occupied.  Average rent is $974.
  3. Springfield: Estimated population of 697,382, which 39% of residents are renter occupied.  Average rent is $913.
  4. Barnstable Town: Estimated population of 212,990, which 20% of residents are renter occupied.  Average rent is $1,287.
  5. Pittsfield: Estimated population of 124,944, which 31% of residents are renter occupied.  Average rent is $818.

 

 

 

SECURITY DEPOSIT LAWS IN MASSACHUSETTS

 

Does Massachusetts require security deposits? 

Massachusetts does not require security deposits. 

 

Is a security deposit receipt required in Massachusetts? 

Massachusetts requires landlords to provide a receipt for security deposit within thirty days of receiving the deposit.  Receipts must indicate the name and location of the bank, amount of deposit and the account number.  (MGL c.186 § 15B(3)(a))

 

How much security deposit can a landlord charge in Massachusetts? 

Massachusetts limits the maximum security deposit to 1 months of rent. (MGL c.186 § 15B(1)(b)(iii))

 

 

Storage Requirements for Security Deposits in Massachusetts: 

Security deposits must be kept in a interest-bearing bank account and must be located in Massachusetts.  (MGL c.186 § 15B(3)(a))

 

 

Can security deposits be commingled with other assets in Massachusetts? 

Landlords are not allowed to commingle.  (MGL c.186 § 15B(1)(e))

 

Do landlords have to pay interest on security deposits in Massachusetts? 

Massachusetts requires landlords to pay interest on deposits. (MGL c.186 § 15B(3)(b))

  • 5% or amount received on account, for yearly leases
  • Interest must be paid each year
  • If tenancy is terminated, tenant receives all accrued interest with 30 days of the termination

 

When must a landlord return the deposit by in Massachusetts? 

Landlords must return the security deposits within 30 days after the termination of tenancy.  (MGL c.186 § 15B(3)(a))

 

 

When can a landlord in Massachusetts withhold security deposit?

At the end of a lease, the landlord is required to return the tenant’s security deposit.  However, landlords may withhold all or portions of a tenant’s security deposit for:

 

  • Unpaid rent and/or fees
  • Excessive damage to the rental unit or premises
  • Violating the lease agreement
  • Unpaid utility bills
  • If tenant is responsible for property taxes, unpaid property taxes

 

 

 

Nonrefundable fees: 

Landlords cannot charge any extra fees except security deposit.  (Mass Legal Help)

 

Pet Deposits and Additional Fees:

Landlords cannot charge any extra fees except security deposit.  (Mass Legal Help)

 

Require written description / itemized list of damages and charges?

Landlords are required to provide written and itemized list of damages within 30 days of tenant departure.  Landlords must provide written evidence: bills, invoices, receipts, etc.  (MGL c.186 § 15B(4)(iii))

 

What happens to Massachusetts landlords that fail to comply returning the security deposit?

Landlords who fail to comply can be liable for 3x the amount of security or balance, plus any interest that is entitled at a 5% rate from the date the deposit payment was due, plus reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs.  (MGL c.186 § 15B(7))

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RENTAL AGREEMENT LAWS IN MASSACHUSETTS

 

Rental agreements required in Massachusetts:

Rental agreements are required for leases 12 months or longer.  We always recommend having a legal lease agreement to prevent future complications.

If you need a lease, Burbz offers an online Massachusetts rental lease agreement.

 

What are the required lease provisions in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts requires certain provisions to be included in the lease agreement.  Besides both the landlord and tenant names, the landlord should also list (Md Real Property Code, 8-208):

  • MUST INCLUDE:  Condition of occupancy
  • MUST INCLUDE: Rent Amount and Due Date
  • MUST INCLUDE: Adequate description of premises / property
  • Security deposit amount and terms
  • Process for requesting maintenance and repairs
  • Length of the lease agreement
  • Subleasing policy
  • Landlord’s responsibilities for maintenance and utilities
  • Tenant’s responsibilities for maintenance and utilities
  • Late Fees and Penalties
  • Pet policies
  • Cleaning Fees
  • Other fees

 

Landlords cannot include:

  • Tenant authorize any person to confess judgment on a claim arising out of the lease agreement
  • Tenant agrees to waive their rights
  • Late fees that exceed 5% of rent amount
  • Tenant waives their right to a jury trial
  • Tenant agrees to a shorter period for Notice to Quit
  • Authorizes the landlord to take possession of the leased property, including tenant’s personal property, except for termination or abandonment
  • Provision that is against public policy and voids 8-105
  • Permits landlord to commence an eviction proceeding or issue a notice to quit based on acts defined as retaliation

 

 

What are the rental agreement notice requirements in Massachusetts: 

Fixed-End or Year-to-Year: Landlords must provide at least a 3 months notice if the lease has no end date.  For fixed-end dates, no notice is required as the lease expires.  (MGL c.186 § 12)

Month-to-Month: Landlords must provide at least the periodic interval that rent is due.  For example, if rent is owed monthly then at least one month notice is required.  (MGL c.186 § 12)  Read our guide on Month-to-Month rent.

Week-to-Week: No statute defining a notice requirement.

 

 

What happens when the tenant remains without consent after the rental agreement expires or terminates?

Landlords do not need to send a Notice to Quit, they can immediately begin the eviction process.  However, tenants must receive their Summons and Complaint notice for the hearing.  (Mass Legal Help)

 

 

Does the lease automatically renew in Massachusetts? 

Leases with a fixed end date in the lease will expire.

 

Rent Increase Notice:

Landlords must provide a 30 day notice.  (Mass Consumer Guide to Tenant Rights and Responsibilities)

 

Rent Grace Period for Residential:

Massachusetts has a 30 day grace period before landlords can charge late fees or penalties.  (MGL c.186 § 15B(1)(c))

 

 

Prepaid Rent:

Landlords can only collect first and last month’s rent at a maximum prior to the commencement of tenancy.  (MGL c.186 § 15B(1)(b)(i-ii))  Landlords must provide receipts and follow the interest rates policies of 5% or actual interest if less than 5%.  (MGL c.186 § 15B(2)(a))

 

 

 

 

 

 

LATE FEES AND LIMITS IN MASSACHUSETTS

Late Fees for Residential:

Landlords can charge a late fee / penalty.  Massachusetts does not define a maximum.  The late fee should to be stated in the lease agreement. (MGL c.186 § 15B(1)(c))

 

 

 

 

MASSACHUSETTS LEASE TERMINATIONS / NOTICES TO QUIT

 

In Massachusetts, lease agreements between landlords and tenants can be terminated.  Read our blog for landlords about handling early lease terminations.  Here are the cause and effects:

 

What is the Pay or Quit for Nonpayment requirement in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts requires landlords provide a 14 day notice to cure the remedy or quit.  Tenants are allowed to pay with interest if they have not received a prior notice to quit for non-payment within the last 12 months.  (MGL c.186 § 11MGL c.186 § 12)

 

 

How many days must a landlord allow before terminating for a Lease Violation?

Massachusetts requires landlords provide a 14 day notice to cure the remedy or quit.  Tenants are allowed to remedy the violation if they have not received a prior notice within the last 12 months.  (MGL c.186 § 11MGL c.186 § 12)

 

 

Massachusetts allows immediate lease termination if the tenant is responsible for:

Landlords must terminate a tenancy and immediately start the eviction process for any illegal activity.  This includes: prostitution, possession, sale or manufacturing of illegal drugs, illegally keeping or selling alcoholic beverages, illegal gambling and prostitution.  (MGL c.139 § 19)

 

 

 

How many days when terminating for illegal drug-related activities?

Landlords can commence the eviction process immediately.  (MGL c.139 § 19)

 

 

 

 

MASSACHUSETTS LAWS ON REPAIRS

 

Massachusetts requires landlords provide a habitable property for tenants to live and enjoy.  There are specific provisions defining how tenants can remedy repairs if the landlord fails to do so.  

How many days must the tenant give for non-emergency repairs? 

Tenants must provide written notice and allow the landlord 14 days for needed repairs.  (MGL c.111 § 127L)

 

Can tenant withhold rent for landlords’ failure to provide essential services (i.e. water, heat, etc.)?

Massachusetts allows tenants to without rent but maximum is fours month’s within a twelve-month period.  (MGL c.111 § 127L)

 

 

 

 

MASSACHUSETTS LANDLORD LAWS AND RESPONSIBILITIES

 

Landlords have an obligation to the tenants, which include:

  • Water:  Landlord must provide adequate water and pressure to satisfy ordinary needs.  This includes heated water in the range of 110F-130F degrees.
  • Heat: From September 16 to June 14, every room must be heated to at least 68º F between 7:00 AM and 11 PM, and at least 64º F at all other hours. Tenant may be responsible for the fuel/electricity to heat the unit.
  • Kitchen: The landlord must provide the following in the kitchen: a sink of sufficient size and capacity for washing dishes and kitchen utensils, a stove and oven in good repair (unless the written lease requires otherwise), and space and proper facilities for the installation of a refrigerator. The landlord does not have to provide a refrigerator. If a refrigerator is provided, however, the landlord must keep it in working order.
  • Cockroaches and Rodents:  If there are two or more apartments in the building, the landlord must maintain the unit free from rodents, cockroaches, and insect infestation.

According to (Mass Consumer Guide to Tenant Rights and Responsibilities)

 

 

MASSACHUSETTS TENANT LAWS AND RESPONSIBILITIES

 

Tenant must maintain a fit and habitable premise and is prohibited from intentionally or negligently damaging or removing any part of the premise.  Tenants must conduct themselves and others in a manner not to disturb the neighbor’s peaceful enjoyment of their premises. 

 

 

 

 

 

MASSACHUSETTS EVICTION LAWS

 

Can landlords do a ‘self help’ eviction?

In Massachusetts, it is illegal for landlords to attempt to evict a tenant not through a court order.  If convicted, the tenant may recover possession of the rental unit or terminate the lease agreement.  As well, recover 3 months’ rent or 3x the damages sustain, plus reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs.  (MGL c.186 § 15F)

Are landlords allowed to lock out tenants by changing locks?

Landlords cannot change locks.  (Mass Legal Help)

Are landlords allowed to turn off utilities?

Landlords cannot turn off utilities.  (MGL c.186 § 14)

 

Do landlords have to make a reasonable attempt to mitigate damages when re-renting the rental unit?

No statute.

 

 

 

MASSACHUSETTS LAWS ON RETALIATION

 

Massachusetts laws state a landlord cannot terminate a lease, refuse a lease renewal or raise rents, terminate a periodic tenancy or threaten to bring an action of possession when:

 

  • Tenant submitted, or threatened to, a complaint to government agency for building or health code violation
  • Tenant has sent written complaints to the landlords about repairs
  • Tenant withheld rent because of poor living conditions
  • Tenant has organized or joined a tenants’ union, or similar organization

 

Massachusetts defines a period of 6 months that would result in a retaliatory action. Tenants may be rewarded the equivalent of 3 months rent, reasonable attorney fees, and court costs. (MGL c.186 § 18MGL c.239 § 2A)

 

 

 

 

LAWS ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, SEXUAL MISCONDUCT, AND SEXUAL ASSAULT

 

A landlord cannot discriminate against prospective tenants or tenants because they have been a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, rape or stalking.

 

Verify Claim:

A landlord is allowed to verify claim of Domestic Violence. (MGL c.186 § 24(a))

 

 

Can a tenant terminate the least if they are a victim of domestic violence: 

Massachusetts state law says a tenant with proof of Domestic Violence status but must request termination within 3 months of the incident date.  (MGL c.186 § 24(b))

 

 

 

Must Landlords Change Locks:

Once a landlord has received a request from the tenant, a landlord must change within 48 hours the locks.  Cost of the lock is at the tenant’s expense.  The tenants can change locks themselves but must provide a set of keys and follow state procedure.  (MGL c.186 § 26)

 

 

 

 

 

 

MASSACHUSETTS LAWS FOR LOCKS AND LANDLORDS

Massachusetts does not have any statewide laws regarding locks.  Landlords have 48 hours to change locks if the tenant was a victim of domestic violence.

 

 

 

 

MASSACHUSETTS PET LAWS & PET POLICIES

Massachusetts Landlord-Tenant Laws does not have any specific pet laws.  Landlords are legally allowed to create their own pet policies and requirements.  Including tolerance for breeds, size, types, and more.  Read our guide to pet policies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DO LANDLORDS IN MASSACHUSETTS NEED A RENTAL LICENSE?

 

According to Massachusetts Landlord-Tenant Laws, landlords do not need a rental license in Massachusetts.

Landlords and owner of a residential rental property do not need to register the property.  Local cities may have different requirements, we recommend you research the local city specific laws. Baltimore in particular has regulations for licensing.

 

 

 

 

 

NOTICE OF ENTRY LAWS IN MASSACHUSETTS

Do landlords in Massachusetts have to provide notice of entry? 

Massachusetts does not require landlords to provide any notice.  However, it is recommended that landlords provide 24 hours’ notice for normal circumstances entry.    This includes:

  • Non-emergency maintenance and repairs
  • Improvements to property
  • Inspections
  • Showing prospective tenants, contractors, mortgagees or buyers.

 

When can a landlord enter without notice:

No Statute.

 

 

Can landlords enter for non-emergency maintenance and repairs?

No Statute.

 

 

Can landlords enter for showings?

No Statute.

 

 

 

Can landlords enter for emergencies without notice?

No Statute.

 

 

Can landlords enter during Tenant’s extended absence?

No Statute.

 

 

Can landlords enter for pesticide use?

No Statute.

 

 

 

 

MASSACHUSETTS SUBLEASE AND ASSIGNMENT PROVISIONS

Landlords should include a clause in the lease agreement to prevent subleasing.  There are no state laws, the lease agreement governs the terms.

 

 

 

 

TENANT ABANDONED PROPERTY IN MASSACHUSETTS

 

Massachusetts Landlord-Tenant Laws does have statutes declaring procedure for holding or storing terminated or abandoned tenants possessions.  Landlords need to send written notice to the tenant via certified mail stating the property is considered abandoned and must be removed within 30 days of the notice, or 33 days of notice mailed.  After sending notice, the landlord must store all the property in a place of safekeeping.

After the 30 days, the landlord can sell the property at a public or private sale, dispose of property if storage and sale costs exceed the value, sell items of value.

Tenants personal property will be considered abandoned if they notify to the landlord their intention to remove property but fail to do so in 15 days of the written response, or no response is ever received from tenant.

 

 

 

 

REQUIRED RENTAL AGREEMENT DISCLOSURES FOR MASSACHUSETTS LEASES

 

Massachusetts Landlord-Tenant Laws requires the following be included with all Rental Agreement Disclosures:

 

Lead Paint Disclosure:  Yes.  Federal law requires every landlord to disclose known information on lead-based paint and hazards.  Landlords must provide this EPA-approved pamphlet.

Owner Name and Address:  Landlord must disclose the name and address of property owner, authorized managers, security deposit amount and the tenant’s security deposit rights.

Disclosure of Insurance:  Upon tenant request, landlord must supply the name of the property’s insurance company and verification of coverage amount within 15 days.  As well, disclose who will receive any payment for a loss covered by insurance.

 

 

HELPFUL RESOURCES

 

Massachusetts General Law c.186 – Estates for Years and At Will 

Massachusetts General Law c.151 s.4 – Unlaw Practices

Massachusetts General Law c.239 – Summary Process for Possession of Land

Massachusetts Law about Landlord and Tenant

Massachusetts Law Guide Landlord-Tenant

Massachusetts Division of Insurance

A Massachusetts Guide to Insurance for Your Home and Ways to Help Reduce Your Insurance Premiums (PDF Guide)

A Massachusetts Guide to Understanding the Insurance Policy Covering Your Home (PDF Guide)

Massachusetts Consumer Guide to Tenant Rights and Responsibilities (PDF Guide)

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Massachusetts

 

 

MASSACHUSETTS RELATED COURT INFO & LINKS

 

Massachusetts Small Claims Court Limits:

$7,000 is the limit for small claims court. (MGL c.218 § 21)

 

 

Massachusetts Eviction Cases Allowed in Small Claims:

Yes, as long as it does not exceed $,5000.

Massachusetts General Law c.218 s.21-28 – District Courts 

Massachusetts Judicial Branch

Massachusetts District Courts by County

Massachusetts Attorney General

Massachusetts Bar Association

MassLegalHelp.org

 

 

 

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