Massachusetts Tenant Rights Laws

Whether you rent an apartment in the heart of Boston or a house way out in Pittsfield, it's likely you'll run into landlord-tenant issues at some point. Thankfully, in addition to federal and local law, Massachusetts has an array of laws and regulations designed to protect you as a tenant and to guide the rental relationship in general. Read on to learn more about Massachusetts tenant rights laws.

Tenant Rights: Security Deposits to Building Repairs

Massachusetts rental laws address issues that arise before you even begin a tenancy. For example, it's illegal to discriminate against a potential renter based on race, sexual orientation, religion, military service, or other protected characteristics. And once you do agree to a lease, the landlord may not demand a security deposit amount in excess of one month's rent.

During the course of your tenancy, you are entitled to a unit that is fit for habitation. In Massachusetts, these standards are set according to the State Sanitary Code (105 CMR 410). For example, your landlord must provide heat such that from September 16th to June 14th, the temperature must be at least 68 degrees between 7am and 11pm, and at least 64 degrees during other hours. And if your landlord fails to make certain necessary repairs, you may have those repairs made and deduct the cost from future rent if you first give the landlord 14 days' notice.

Massachusetts Tenant Rights Laws at a Glance

The following chart provides a summary of Massachusetts state laws governing the landlord-tenant relationship, including links to important code sections.

Statutes

Security Deposits

  • Limit: one months' rent
  • Must be held in separate, interest-bearing, Massachusetts bank account
  • Must return all or part of the security deposit within 30 days after moving out (with interest in some cases)
  • Part or all may be used for:
    • Unpaid rent or water charges
    • Damages to rental beyond normal wear and tear
    • Unpaid increase in real estate tax which tenant is obliged to pay pursuant to a tax escalation clause

Paying Rent

  • May not raise rent during lease term (e.g. 6 month or 1 year lease) unless lease allows; may raise rent upon lease renewal
  • May raise rent during periodic rental agreement (e.g. month-to-month) if notice of one full pay period (but not less than 30 days) is given

Living Conditions

  • Landlord may only enter for certain reasons including emergency, inspection, to make necessary/agreed-upon repairs, and to show unit to prospective buyers or tenants
  • Landlord must provide unit fit for human habitation (according to State Sanitary Code)
  • Landlords must make repairs necessary for habitability unless caused by tenant
  • Tenant may make repairs and deduct cost from rent in certain situations with 14 days’ notice

Discrimination

  • No discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, marital status, veteran status, age, handicap/disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, children, or public assistance

Ending or Renewing a Tenancy

  • Landlord must give notice to terminate the tenancy:
    • Month-to-month: 30 days or interval between rent payment days, whichever is longer
    • Lease: according to the terms of the lease; if payment intervals are three months or longer, three months' notice required
    • Eviction: 14 days for failure to pay rent during lease; 30 days in other cases
  • Eviction: Writ of execution for possession required

Retaliation

  • Landlord may not retaliate against tenant for exercising tenant rights

Note: State regulations are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Massachusetts Tenant Rights Laws: Related Resources

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