Massachusetts Landlord Tenant Laws
January 17, 2023
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Security deposit receipt
Rent and Fees
Application Fees: Prohibited
Rent Control: N/A
Late Fee Limit: N/A
Grace Period Minimum: 30 days
Amount Limit: 1 month’s rent
Return Within: 30 days
Permitted Times of Entry: N/A
|Fair Housing Protections |
Veteran or military status
Source of income
Rent Demand Notice: 14-day pay-or-quit notice, or determined by lease
Notice for Lease Violation: Determined by lease
Notice for Lease Violation (Periodic Tenancies): 7 days
Unconditional Notice to Quit: Notice required, but unspecified
Massachusetts Landlord-Tenant Law
Landlords in all 50 states must include information about lead-based paint hazards in the rental agreements for most properties built before 1978. Sellers and landlords must distribute an EPA-approved information pamphlet called “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home” and disclose any known lead hazards in the property. These obligations were established by Section 1018 of the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992.
Security Deposit Receipt
If a landlord collects a security deposit, they must provide a receipt of such within 30 days indicating the amount, the name of the person receiving it, the date it was received, and a description of the rented unit. The receipt should also be signed by the landlord.
Within 10 days after the commencement of the tenancy or upon receipt of the deposit, whichever is later, the landlord must provide a separate written statement of the present condition of the unit to be leased. The statement should include a comprehensive list of existing damages, including any state sanitary or building code violations. The statement should be signed by the lessor and contain a pre-written notice about the purpose of the receipt.
If a tenant or lawful occupant requests such, the landlord must provide, in writing, a description of the dwelling unit’s fire insurance coverage within 15 days. The disclosure should include the name of the insurance company, the amount of insurance provided, and the name of a person who would receive payments for a loss covered by the insurance.
If water is charged to tenants individually, the lease document must fully disclose the details of the water submetering and the billing arrangement. All charges and relevant information should be stated clearly.
Rent and Fees
- Rent Due Date: Rent in Massachusetts is due on the date specified in the lease agreement.
- Application Fees: Rental application fees are prohibited in Massachusetts (MGL 186 § 15B(b)).
- Rent Increases: There is no statewide rent control in Massachusetts.
- Late Fees: There are no statutory limits on late fees in Massachusetts. However, the lease must explicitly mention the amount of the late fee.
- Grace Period: 30 days (MGL 186 § 15B(1c))
- NSF/Bounced Check Fee Maximum: If the tenant’s rent check or electronic funds transfer bounces, and the amount of the check is less than $2,500, the landlord may charge a fee of $25 or less (MGL 60 § 57A).
- Withholding Rent/Repair and Deduct: If the landlord fails to fulfill their obligations as stated in the lease agreement, the tenant may withhold rent and dispute any notices to quit for nonpayment of rent. The tenant may recover the difference between rent and the fair value of the property, as well as any amounts reasonably spent to remedy a condition (MGL 239 § 8A).
- Deposit Limit: 1 month’s rent (MGL 186 § 15B(b(iii))).
- Interest: For tenancies one year or longer, Massachusetts security deposit law requires landlords to pay interest on security deposits at the rate of 5% per year, or the percent received from the bank. (MGL 186 § 15B(3b)).
- Return Within: 30 days (MGL 186 § 15B(4)).
- Deposit Location: Security deposits should be held in a separate, interest-bearing account in a bank (MGL 186 § 15B(3a)). Deposits should not be commingled with the landlords’ other assets
- Withholding: Landlords may withhold funds from the security deposit for unpaid rent or water charges, reasonable costs of repairing damage not caused by the tenant (not wear and tear), or for an increase in real estate taxes that the tenant must pay following a tax escalation clause (MGL 186 § 15B(4)).
Tenant Screening and Fair Housing Protections
- Federal law prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, gender, national origin, familial status, and disability (Title 24 USC § 3601-3607). Massachusetts fair housing law adds sexual orientation, gender identity, age, ancestry, genetic information, marital status, veteran/military status, and source of income (MGL 151B § 3B).
- Massachusetts landlords are subject to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) (15 USC § 1681), which outlines the responsibilities of landlords to protect tenant credit information. According to the Act, landlords may not share tenant credit information with anyone without a legal reason to view it. They must also investigate disputed information, dispose of credit reports after use in tenant screening, and notify applicants when their credit score or history was the reason for their denial.
- Criminal background checks may be used in Massachusetts.
- Massachusetts landlords should follow HUD recommendations for using criminal background checks fairly. This includes avoiding blanket policies for denying applicants with criminal convictions, assessing applicants and their criminal histories on a case-by-case basis, and only denying an applicant when they demonstrate a risk to the safety of other residents or the property.
- Advanced Notice: No law in Massachusetts requires landlords to give advance notice before entering a property. Generally, 24 hours’ notice is recommended.
- Permitted Times: Massachusetts state law does not designate any time-of-day restrictions for entering. Acceptable reasons to enter an occupied unit include inspections, repairs, or showings. The landlord may also enter in accordance with a court order or if the premises appear to have been abandoned (MGL 186 § 15B(1)).
- Emergency Entry: In case of emergency, landlords are generally permitted to enter without advanced notice.
Evictions are complex legal processes often poorly understood by both parties. Before pursuing eviction in Massachusetts, consider hiring an experienced real estate attorney and be sure to review the Massachusetts eviction process in more detail.
- Rent Demand Notice: 14 days to pay or quit by default; however, the landlord may enforce a different reasonable period as long as it is included in the rental agreement (MGL 186 § 11A).
- Notice for Lease Violation: No statute. Massachusetts law does not specify the number of days’ notice landlords should provide tenants before filing for eviction for a lease violation besides nonpayment, such as excessive noise, property damage, or another noncompliance. However, the written rental agreement should state the amount of notice the landlord will provide for a lease violation.
- Notice for Lease Violation (Periodic Tenancies): 7 days. If a week-to-week or month-to-month tenant commits a lease violation, the landlord must provide seven days’ notice before filing for eviction (MGL 186 § 17).
- Unconditional Notice to Quit: Notice required, but not specified. This notice applies when the tenant engages in illegal activity on the premises, such as using the premises for prostitution, selling controlled substances, using explosives, keeping illegal weapons, or committing/threatening violence.
Other Laws and Facts About Massachusetts
- The median rent rate in Massachusetts is $2,900.
- The median rent rate in Boston is $3,200.
- Massachusetts landlords may only ask for the following payments up front: the first and last months’ rent, a security deposit, and the cost of a new lock and key for the apartment (MGL 186 § 15B(b)).