State Landlord-Tenant Laws For Massachusetts

Overview

DEPOSIT

  • Maximum security deposit is no mre thn 1 months rent.
  • Landlords are required by law to store a tenant’s security deposits in a separate account.
  • Landlords can deduct repairs beyond normal wear and tear, unpaid rent and utilities and fees for early termination or cleaning.
  • Landlords are required to pay interest.

RENT INCREASE LAWS

  • No rent control laws.
  • Landlords must give notice when increasing rent equal to the length of the payment period for tenancies at will.
  • Landlords must give 30 days notice when increasing rent on an annual lease.

NOTICES

  • There's no statute regarding notices before entry, but generally, landlords are required to give at least 24 hours notice before entering an occupied property.

RE-KEYING LAWS

  • No statute.

RENTAL AGREEMENT

  • Both oral and written rental agreements are accepted in Massachussetts.
  • It is always advisable to have a written lease.

LATE FEES & GRACE PERIODS

  • There is no maximum late fee amount, however, it is expected to be reasonable.
  • Landlords must give at least 30 days grace period.

SMOKING LAWS

  • No statute.

PET LAWS

  • It is illegal to collect pet fees or deposits in Massachusetts.

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1. Massachusetts Landlord-Tenant Rights and Responsibilities

The state of Massachusetts has various municipal and state rental laws that's mandatory for both landlords and tenants to follow. These laws affect both parties' rights and obligations as well as the general dynamics of the landlord-tenant relationship, as outlined in the Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 186.

Below is an overview of the most common rights and duties of landlords and tenants in the state of Massachusetts. 

Tenant’s Rights and Responsibilities

Rights

  • Tenants in Massachusetts have the right to a habitable rental unit.
  • Tenants in Massachusetts have the right to request and obtain repairs from the landlord for damages beyond typical wear and tear within 14 days, after giving due notice.
  • Tenants in Massachusetts have the right to file a lawsuit to recover costs of repairs or to have the landlord ordered to perform repairs.
  • Tenants in Massachusetts are allowed to deduct maintenance costs from their rent. (MGL c.111 § 127L)
  • Tenants in Massachusetts are entitled to a refund of their security deposit at the conclusion of the rental lease agreement. 

Responsibilities

  • Massachusetts tenants are expected to pay their rent on time. 
  • Massachusetts tenants are expected not to disturb other tenants and neighbors.
  • Massachusetts tenants are required to perform minor upkeep and repairs as needed.
  • Massachusetts tenants are expected to maintain the leased property, including the fixtures, and keep it clean and habitable.  

Landlord’s Rights and Responsibilities

Rights

  • Landlords in Massachusetts are entitled to receive their rent payments on time.
  • Landlords in Massachusetts are allowed to demand that their tenants keep their property livable and well-maintained.
  • Landlords in Massachusetts are able to demand a security deposit to cover the cost of repairing damages that go beyond normal wear and tear. (MGL 186 § 15B(b))
  • Landlords in Massachusetts are allowed to take money out of a renter's security deposit to pay for repairs for damages that go beyond normal wear and tear and are either directly or indirectly the tenant's fault. (MGL c.186 § 15B(4))
  • Landlords in Massachusetts have the right to seek a formal eviction if a tenant breaks any of the lease terms.

Responsibilities

  • Massachusetts landlords are required by law to give tenants a safe and livable space that conforms with the local Board of Health's safety standards and the Massachusetts Sanitary Code.
  • Massachusetts landlords are required to respond to and carry out a tenant’s request for repairs within 14 days after getting notice.
  • Massachusetts landlords are expected to keep any promises made in the lease agreement.

Required Notices Before Entry

Are landlords in Massachusetts required to give notice before entering the property?

Massachusetts does not require landlords to give tenants notice before entrance. However, landlords are generally required to give at least 24 hours' notice before entering the rented space whether to inspect, make repairs, or show it to prospective renters.  

There are some exceptions to this law, neither notification nor consent is required in the event of an emergency. Additionally, if a tenant appears to have abandoned the property, landlords are not required to give notice. (MGL 186 § 15B(1))

Are landlords in Massachusetts allowed to enter the property to conduct maintenance and repairs?

Yes. Generally speaking, a landlord may enter the unit to make repairs at reasonable hours and with reasonable notice to the tenant.

Late Fee for Rent in Massachusetts

Landlords are required to give a 30-day grace period to renters who miss rent payments before charging a late fee. While there's no cap on how much a landlord can charge for late fees, the fee is expected to be reasonable. (MGL 186 § 15B(1c))

Sources

SECTION 2

2. Massachusetts Rent Increase Laws

Massachusetts does not have a state-wide rent control law. Furthermore, counties and local governments are banned from implementing their own rent control legislation under state law. (MGL Chapter 40P)

Rent increases by landlords in Massachusetts are permissible at any point in time, for any cause, and by any amount. 

Notice Required to Raise Rent in Massachusetts

While there's no statute that controls rent increases, tenants are protected by Massachusetts rent increase laws against unexpected rent hikes. 

Here's a breakdown of the notice requirements for landlords:

  • Tenancy-at-Will: Before increasing rent, landlords are required to give tenants written notice of at least 30 days. The notice period must match the length of the rent payment period if it exceeds thirty days. For instance, sixty days' notice is required if rent is paid quarterly, or every three months.  (MGL Chapter 186, Section 12)
  • Fixed-Term Leases (e.g., one year): Rent cannot be raised during the lease term. However, standard notice requirements—30 days or the length of the payment period, whichever is longer—apply to any rent increases after the lease expires.  

Limitations on Massachusetts Rent Increase Laws

  • Landlords are not permitted to increase rent during a fixed lease term unless the lease expressly contains a tax escalator clause or another provision allowing for such modifications.
  • It is illegal for landlords to raise rent as a form of discrimination or retaliation towards a tenant, according to Massachusetts rent increase laws.

Source: Tenants Rights| Mass.gov , (MGL Chapter 93A)

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3. Massachusetts Rental Agreement Laws

Are written rental agreements required in Massachusetts?

The state of Massachusetts accepts both written and verbal leases.

However, while written agreements are not required, they are advisable as these outline the rights and obligations of both the landlord and the renter. 

This is especially true when entering a longer fixed-term lease, a more formal written agreement is required.

What details are required in a rental agreement in Massachusetts?

Lease agreements must contain specified information according to Massachusetts law. These details include: 

  • Name, address, and phone number of the landlord or person in charge of the rental property 
  • The amount of security deposit, along with a promise that it would be reimbursed within 30 days of the lease's expiration 
  • A provision indicating that the landlord shall give a separate written report detailing the property's current situation

It's also important to note that after getting the tenant's signature, the landlord has thirty days to give the renter a copy of the signed lease.

Source: (M.G.L. c. 186 § 15A-F, §16)

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4. Massachusetts Tenant Deposit Laws

According to Massachusetts state law, owners of rental properties are permitted to request a security deposit from tenants in order to cover possible damage and other unforeseen expenses.

What is the Maximum Security Deposit Amount in Massachusetts?

Landlords in Massachusetts cannot charge more than one month’s rent for the deposit. (MGL 186 § 15B(b(iii)))

Additionally, Massachusetts landlords are not legally allowed to collect additional holding deposits, pet fees, or rental fees at the time of the tenant moving in. 

Can Landlords Collect Pet Deposits in Massachusetts?

It is illegal for landlords in Massachusetts to demand pet fees from their tenants when they move in. 

What Can Landlords Deduct From the Security Deposit in Massachusetts?

Landlords in Massachusetts have the right to withhold or deduct a portion of the security deposit in situations when there is unpaid rent, water bills, damage exceeding normal wear and tear, and real estate taxes. (MGL 186 § 15B(4))

How Are Landlords Required to Hold Security Deposits in Massachusetts?

The landlord is required to disclose the bank and account number to the renter, and security deposits must be kept in a different interest-bearing bank account. (MGL 186 § 15B(3a)))

Deposits must not be mixed in with the other possessions of the landlord. 

How Long Do Landlords Have to Return A Deposit In Massachusetts?

Landlords, unless they intend to deduct, are required to return the security deposit with interest to the tenant within 30 days of the lease's expiration. (MGL 186 § 15B(4))

Tenants have the right to file a lawsuit for three times the amount owed, plus court expenses, legal fees, and five percent interest, if the landlord does not refund the security deposit within thirty days. (MGL c.186 § 15B(7))

Security Deposit Interest

Landlords are required to pay interest on security deposits maintained for a year or more at the conclusion of each year. However, if the landlord fails to put the deposit in a bank, the tenant is entitled to a 5% annual interest rate on the security deposit.

Additionally, the landlord is required to either provide the tenant the interest at the conclusion of each year of the tenancy or deduct it from the tenant's subsequent rent payment.

Source: Security deposits and last month's rent | Mass.gov

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5. Massachusetts Eviction Laws & Notices

Grounds for Eviction in Massachusetts

A landlord cannot remove a tenant without a good reason or ground in Massachusetts. To guarantee compliance with state regulations, it is crucial for both landlords and tenants to understand these grounds. 

Here are some of legal grounds of eviction in Massachusetts:

Non-Payment of Rent

When rent is not paid on time, the landlord has the right to send a notice and begin the eviction procedure if the renter does not pay within the allotted period.

Lease Violations

Tenants may be subject to eviction if they violate any of the provisions of their lease, including allowing pets, causing damage to the property, or engaging in other violations. The renter usually has a chance to correct the infraction after receiving a notification from the landlord.

Illegal Activities

Engaging in illicit activities on the rental property is a grave infraction that may result in a tenant's eviction. Depending on how serious the behaviors are, the eviction process may go more quickly.

End of Lease Term

Landlords have the option to elect not to renew a lease at the conclusion of its term. When a month-to-month tenant wants to end their lease, they normally need to give 30 days' notice.

Health and Safety Violations

Eviction may also occur from a tenant's actions that seriously endanger the property or the health and safety of other tenants.

Massachusetts: Notices To Terminate A Tenancy With Cause

Giving the tenant the proper notice is the first step in the Massachusetts eviction process. The grounds for eviction would determine the kind and length of this notice. 

Here are the key Massachusetts eviction notice requirements:

Lease with No End Date (Tenancy at Will):

  • Payment Intervals of 3 Months or Longer: Requires a three-month notice. (MGL c.186 § 12)
  • Month-to-Month Lease: Notice period must equal the interval between payment days or 30 days, whichever is longer. (MGL c.186 § 12)
  • Week-to-Week Lease: There is no specific statute, but typically, notice equal to the payment interval is reasonable.

Fixed End Date in Lease:

  • No Statute: Typically, no notice is needed as the lease naturally expires at the end of the term. However, it's good practice to confirm with the lease terms.

Non-Payment of Rent:

  • Notice of Termination: 14 days' notice is required. During this period, the tenant can remedy by paying the overdue rent plus interest if they haven't received a notice to quit for non-payment within the past twelve months. (MGL c.186 § 11, MGL c.186 § 12)

Termination for Lease Violation:

  • No Specific Statute: There is no Massachusetts statute that directly addresses the notice period for termination due to general lease violations. The terms for such terminations are usually specified in the lease agreement itself.

Termination for Illegal Activity:

  • Immediate Termination: Landlords may terminate a tenancy without notice if the rental unit is used for illegal activities such as prostitution, illegal gambling, the illegal keeping or sale of alcoholic beverages, or the possession, sale, or manufacturing of illegal drugs. (MGL c.139 § 19)

Massachusetts Eviction Process

To guarantee a just and legitimate eviction, landlords must follow a number of legal procedures during the eviction process in Massachusetts.  

Here’s a detailed overview of the Massachusetts eviction process:

1. Identify Legal Grounds for Eviction

For eviction to be lawful, the landlord must provide a good reason, such as unpaid rent, broken lease terms, or unlawful activity.

2. Serve the Appropriate Notice

The landlord is obligated by law to serve the tenant with the appropriate notice A typical Massachusetts eviction notice include a 30-day notice for lease violations or a 14-day notice for non-payment of rent, depending on the reason for the eviction.

3. Wait for the Notice Period to Expire

The landlord must wait for the notice time to pass after serving a Massachusetts notice to quit in order to give the tenant a chance to fix the problem or leave the property.

4. File an Eviction Lawsuit

The landlord may launch a "summary process action"—a civil lawsuit for eviction—in the local court if the renter disregards the notification.

5. Court Hearing

The court hearing is attended by both sides. Tenant has the right to provide a defense, and the landlord must establish the validity of the eviction.

6. Obtain a Court Order

An 'execution', or court order for eviction, will be issued if the judge determines in the landlord's favor.

7. Enforce the Eviction

Enforcing the eviction is the last stage, usually done by a sheriff. Tenant cannot be evicted from the property by the landlord in person.

Source: Eviction for Landlords | Mass.gov, Find out how to start the eviction process | Mass.gov, Eviction for Tenants | Mass.gov.

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6. Massachusetts Rental Application Laws

Are rental application fees allowed in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts is one of only two states where it's illegal for landlords to charge an application fee to prospective renters.  (MGL Chapter 186, Section 15B)

What questions can landlords ask tenants on a rental application form?

Any questions landlords in Massachusetts ask on a rental application form must comply with the requirements of the Massachusetts anti-discrimination statutes and the federal Fair Housing Act laws. (Title 24 USC § 3601-3607, MGL 151B § 3B)

Can landlords run background checks on tenants in Massachusetts?

Landlords are permitted to conduct background investigations, including credit records, criminal histories, and eviction histories during Massachusetts rental applications, but only with the signed consent of the potential renter.

Landlord responsibilities when handling sensitive date such as credit reports

The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which describes landlords' obligations to safeguard tenant credit information, applies to landlords in Massachusetts. (15 USC § 1681) The Act prohibits landlords from disclosing tenant credit information to third parties unless they have a valid purpose to do so. In addition, they have to look into contested data, destroy credit reports after using them for tenant screening, and let applicants know if their credit history or score was a factor in their rejection.

Can landlords use criminal background checks to reject tenant applicants? 

Massachusetts landlords are expected to abide by HUD's guidelines for judicious use of criminal background checks. This entails staying away from general guidelines that forbid applicants with criminal records, evaluating candidates and their criminal histories case-by-case, and only rejecting applications that pose a risk to the security of other tenants or the property. 

Source: Fair Credit Reporting Act, The Fair Housing Act.

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7. Breaking a Lease in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts lease laws are provided by the Massachusetts Attorney General to regulate landlords and renters in all matters pertaining to leasing in the state of Massachusetts.  

Below are some of the legitimate justifications for breaking a lease in Massachusetts under those lease laws. 

Valid Reasons for Breaking a Lease in Massachusetts

Unsafe and Unhealthy Units

In Massachusetts, tenants have the legal right to terminate a lease if the unit is considered unsafe. 

Landlords are responsible for keeping the property in compliance with state and local housing codes. So, legally speaking, a tenant would be considered "constructively evicted" if the landlord fails in this duty. 

However, in order to break the lease because of constructive eviction, tenant needs to provide proof of a serious maintenance issue. There must be a serious problem with this repair, such as a broken toilet or insufficient heat. 

Active Military Duty

Leases can be broken if you enlist in the military after they have been formally signed, according to the War and National Defense Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. However, the tenant must be a member of a uniformed service in order to be eligible. This comprises the military forces, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Public Health Service, and the National Guard that has been activated.

Domestic Violence

If you are a victim of domestic abuse, breaking your lease in Massachusetts is easy to accomplish. Mass. Gen. Laws Ann., ch. 186 § 24 allows tenants to break leases early if they have experienced sexual assault, rape, domestic abuse, or stalking. The tenant, however, must fulfill legal requirements, such as obtaining a protection order or having a legitimate fear of bodily danger, in order to be eligible for this exemption.

Landlord Harassment

The Massachusetts lease rules under Mass. Gen. rules Ann. ch. 186 § 15B(1)(a) consider a tenant to be “constructively evicted” if the landlord consistently infringes his/her right to privacy. For example, turning off utilities, changing locks, or removing apartment's windows would be considered landlord harassment.

Source: The Attorney General's Guide to Landlord and Tenant RightsState Sanitary Code, Chapter II, A Massachusetts Consumer Guide to Tenant Rights and Responsibilities.

SECTION 8

8. HOA Laws in Massachusetts

Below are some Massachusetts HOA laws that govern the creation and operation of HOAs in the state.

Massachusetts Condominium Statute 

(Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 183A, §§ 1 et seq.

The master deed, or declaration, must be recorded with the county registrar of deeds in order for a condominium association to be formed under the Act. The act then controls the creation, administration, and operation of these associations.

Massachusetts Corporations For Charitable And Certain Other Purposes 

(Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 180, §§ 1 et seq.

The Act sets down the rules for corporate procedure and organization in Massachusetts. In Massachusetts, the majority of homeowners' and condominium organizations are set up as corporations (incorporated). 

Massachusetts Unlawful Discrimination Because Of Race, Color, Religious Creed, National Origin, Ancestry Or Sex 

(Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B.

Without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, age, ancestry, veteran status, sexual orientation, marital status, children, handicap, or receipt of public assistance or housing subsidy, citizens are guaranteed equal access to all housing possibilities under the law.  

The federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) and these state-level protections are comparable. The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, HUD, or a private lawsuit in a federal or state court are the options available to victims of housing discrimination who wish to make a complaint.

Massachusetts General Provisions Relative To Real Property 

(Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 184.

This Chapter contains a number of regulations that control the implementation of restrictive covenants. These provisions include, but are not limited to, solar energy restrictions, covenants that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, or sex, and restrictions on community dwellings for people with disabilities. 

Source:

SECTION 9

9. Squatters Rights in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, a squatter needs to hold onto their property for 20 years straight in order to successfully file an adverse possession claim (MA CC 260 § 21). 

According to Massachusetts squatters rights law, squatters are not required to have property taxes or color of title in order to make a claim to acquire legal possession, though having any of these prerequisites could help their case and increase their chances of success. 

Five general requirements must also be fulfilled by squatters:

  • Hostile/Adverse: There must be no active lease or rental arrangement between the squatter and the property owner.  
  • Actual Possession: The squatter needs to be in real possession, which means they need to have lived on the land for the required amount of time. 
  • Open and notorious: It must be clear to neighbors and other people that the squatter has taken possession of the land. They aren't attempting to live there "in secret" or conceal their presence from other surrounding property owners. 
  • Exclusive: No one else has joint possession of the land with the squatter. They keep people from residing there in the same way that a landowner would.  
  • Continuous: The property must be possessed by the squatter continuously and undisturbedly (for 20 consecutive years in Massachusetts). 

Source: Massachusetts law about adverse possession | Mass.gov

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10. Massachusetts Landlord Tenant Legal Resources

Below, you’ll find some helpful Massachusetts landlord–tenant law resources:

Documents and Forms

Legal Resources

Court & Legal Related

DISCLAIMER: This article is designed to convey information, and not to provide legal advice. You should not consider any information in this article to be legal advice. Readers should consider obtaining specific legal advice from an attorney for any decision or course of action contemplated.