State Rules and Regulations for Massachusetts Rental Properties and Landlords

In Massachusetts, lease agreements can be either written or oral. According to Massachusetts law (Massachusetts Legislature Ch. 186), this agreement grants certain rights to a tenant, including the right to a habitable dwelling and the right to take at least 2 forms of alternative action.

Landlords also have certain rights, such as the right to collect rent in a timely manner and the right to deduct for damages that exceed normal wear and tear.

Massachusetts Official Rules and Regulations

Security Deposits in Massachusetts

  • Standard Limit/Maximum Amount – 1 month’s rent.
  • Time Limit for Returns – 30 days.
  • Penalty if Not Returned on Time – Massachusetts landlord who wrongfully withholds rent may be liable to pay up to 3 times the original deposit’s value.
  • Allowable Deductions – Unpaid rent, unpaid taxes, damages that exceed normal wear and tear.

Lease, Rent & Fees Under Massachusetts Law

  • Rent Is Due: No Statute
  • Rent Increase Notice: 30 days. (source)
  • Rent Grace Period: 30 Days (MGL c.186 § 15B(1)(c))
  • Late Fees: Allowed (MGL c.186 § 15B(1)(c))
  • Prepaid Rent: First and last month’s rent is the maximum allowed to be collected at or prior to the commencement of any tenancy. (MGL c.186 § 15B(1)(b)(i-ii)) Landlord must provide a receipt of any prepaid rent. Landlord must pay interest to the tenant on any prepaid rent: 5% interest per year, or other such lesser amount of interest as has been received from the bank where the prepaid rent has been held, payable to the tenant at the end of the tenancy. (MGL c.186 § 15B(2)(a))
  • Returned Check Fees: May not exceed $30. (source)
  • Tenant Allowed to Withhold Rent for Failure to Provide Essential Services (Water, Heat, etc.): Yes, but it must be deposited with the clerk of the courts and follow instructions found in MGL c.239 § 8.
  • Tenant Allowed to Repair and Deduct Rent: Yes, but the tenant must give the landlord 14 days written notice to repair the defect. A tenant may not deduct an amount greater than four months’ rent in any twelve-month period, or period of occupancy, whichever is shorter, from rent due to the owner. (MGL c.111 § 127L)
  • Landlord Allowed to Recover Court and Attorney Fees: Yes (MGL c.186 § 15B(7))
  • Landlord Must Make a Reasonable Attempt to Mitigate Damages, including an Attempt to Rerent: No Statute

Evictions in Massachusetts

Massachusetts landlords are empowered to evict tenants for the following reasons:

  1. Nonpayment of rent – If a tenant does not pay rent by the due date, then a Massachusetts landlord may file a 14-Day Notice to Pay or Quit. If the tenant still does not pay within 14 days, then the landlord may pursue formal eviction.
  2. Lease violation – Massachusetts law does not require landlords to give advance notice in the case of lease violations. As such, if a lease violation occurs, tenants may face immediate eviction without notice.
  3. Illegal acts – Massachusetts landlords have broad authority to determine which illegal acts warrant eviction. If a landlord has documentation of illegal activities on the premises, they may file for immediate eviction.

At-will tenants in good standing are entitled to 7 days or 30 days’ advance notice, depending on if they pay on a weekly or monthly basis, respectively. Landlords are not permitted to evict tenants in retaliation or for discriminatory reasons, as well as for joining a tenant union or taking legal action against another household member for alleged domestic abuse.

Notices and Entry Under Massachusetts Law

  • Notice to Terminate Tenancy – Lease with No End Date: If payment intervals are 3 months or longer, then 3 month’s notice is required. (MGL c.186 § 12)
  • Notice to Terminate Tenancy – Fixed End Date in Lease: No Statute. Typically no notice is needed as the lease simply expires.
  • Notice to Terminate Tenancy – Month-to-Month Lease: Equal to the interval between the days of payment or thirty days, whichever is longer. (MGL c.186 § 12)
  • Notice to Terminate Tenancy – Week-to-Week Lease: No Statute
  • Notice of Date/Time of Move-Out Inspection: No Statute
  • Notice of Termination of All Other Leases for Nonpayment: 14 days notice. Tenant can remedy or pay with interest during that time if tenant has not received a notice to quit for nonpayment of rent within the last twelve months. (MGL c.186 § 11, MGL c.186 § 12)
  • Termination for Lease Violation: No Statute
  • Termination for Illegal Activity: Landlords may terminate a tenancy with no notice to the tenant if a unit was used for prostitution, illegal gambling, the illegal keeping or sale of alcoholic beverages, or the possession, sale, or manufacturing of illegal drugs, among other violations. (MGL c.139 § 19)
  • Required Notice before Entry: No Statute, but 24 hours is recommended. (MGL c.186 § 15B(1)(a))
  • Entry Allowed with Notice for Maintenance and Repairs (non-emergency): Yes (MGL c.186 § 15B(1)(a))
  • Entry Allowed with Notice for Showings: Yes (MGL c.186 § 15B(1)(a))
  • Emergency Entry Allowed without Notice: Yes (MGL c.186 § 15B(1)(a))
  • Entry Allowed During Tenant’s Extended Absence: No Statute (MGL c.186 § 15B(1)(a))
  • Notice to Tenants for Pesticide Use: No Statute
  • Lockouts Allowed: No (source)
  • Utility Shut-offs Allowed: No (MGL c.186 § 14)
  • Penalty for a Self-Help Eviction: If the landlord illegally evicts a tenant, the tenant may recover possession of the unit, or terminate the rental agreement and, in either case, recover three months’ rent or three times the damages sustained, and the cost of suit, including reasonable attorney’s fees. (MGL c.186 § 15F)

Mandatory Disclosures in Massachusetts

Massachusetts landlords must make the following mandatory disclosures:

  1. Lead-based paint. Landlords that own properties built before 1978 must provide information about the concentrations of lead paint.
  2. Authorized agents. Landlords must also disclose the names and addresses of all parties involved in owning and managing the property.
  3. Property insurance provider. Landlords must disclose the insurance provider for the property within 15 days as well as the amount the property is insured for.
  4. Security deposit locations. Landlords must provide the location where the tenant’s security deposit is held.

Business Licenses

  • Business License Required: No state-wide statute, but local cities and counties may have regulations and requirements. Check with your local governing authority.

Housing Discrimination in Massachusetts

Protected groups. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination against tenants on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, familial status, sex, or disability. These rules do not apply to owner-occupied homes or homes operated by religious organizations. Massachusetts state law adds extra protections for tenants on the basis of income source, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, marital status, military status, or genetic information.

Discriminatory acts & penalties. The state’s Attorney General Civil Rights Division handles housing discrimination complaints. The following behaviors have been identified as potentially discriminatory when directed at a member of a protected class:

  • Refusing to rent
  • Providing different terms, conditions, or privileges
  • Steering tenants into certain neighborhoods
  • Refusing to make reasonable physical accommodations
  • Refusing to provide certain financial services
  • Threatening to report tenants or anyone related to them to immigration authorities

The Attorney General does not list specific punishments for discrimination, so it is assumed that each penalty is handled on a case-by-case basis.

Helpful Links

These resources are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Landlords and Tenants are encouraged to seek specific legal advice for any of the issues as found in this blog.

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