Massachusetts Tenant Rights Laws

Created by FindLaw's team of attorney writers and editors.

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

If you think your rights as a tenant have been violated, then you should know about all your legal options. While reading the statutes can be a difficult task in meeting this goal, the following plain language chart detailing Massachusetts tenant rights laws can be an efficient alternative.

Statutes

Massachusetts General Laws, Part II, Chapter 186:

Massachusetts General Laws, Part III, Chapter 239:

Massachusetts General Laws, Part I, Chapter 151B:

Massachusetts General Laws, Part I, Chapter 111:

Code of Massachusetts Regulations:

Security Deposits

Rules Regarding the Amount, Maintenance, and Return of Security Deposits

  • Limited to one months' rent;
  • Must be held in separate, interest-bearing, Massachusetts bank account; and
  • Must return all or part of the security deposit within 30 days after moving out (with interest in some cases).

Allowable Deductions From Security Deposits

  • Unpaid rent or water charges;
  • Damages to rental beyond normal wear and tear; and
  • Unpaid increase in real estate tax which tenant is obliged to pay pursuant to a tax escalation clause.

Rental Rates

A landlord may not raise rent during the lease term (e.g. 6 month or 1 year lease) unless allowed by the lease, but may raise rent upon lease renewal.

A landlord 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

  • A 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.
  • A landlord must provide unit fit for human habitation (according to State Sanitary Code).
  • A landlord must make repairs necessary for habitability unless caused by tenant.
  • A tenant may make repairs and deduct cost from rent in certain situations with 14 days’ notice.

Discrimination

A landlord cannot engage in any 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

A landlord must give notice to terminate the tenancy as follows:

  • 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.

Note: A writ of execution for possession is required for an eviction.

Retaliation

A 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

Discuss Massachusetts Tenant Rights with an Attorney Today

Between the terms of your lease, and federal, state, and local laws, it can be difficult to know exactly what your rights and responsibilities are as a tenant. Whether you're dealing with a payment issue, a rat infestation, or an eviction notice, talking to a skilled legal professional can help you know where you stand. Contact a lawyer familiar with Massachusetts landlord/tenant attorney right away to better understand your Massachusetts tenant rights and how best to move forward.

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