The Full Guide on Massachusetts Landlord Tenant Laws 
In the Bay State, landlords and tenants must follow local and state Massachusetts's rental laws that impact their rights, obligations, and the overall dynamics of the landlord-tenant relationship. The thoroughness and the amount of these laws can make it overwhelming and difficult to stay on top of their nuances.
To help both parties understand Massachusetts's complex rental laws, we have created this comprehensive guide. Landlords will gain the knowledge required to protect their real estate investments and foster positive tenant interactions. Tenants will also become aware of the fundamental rights granted to them during their tenancy.
Encompassing crucial subjects like tenant screening, security deposit regulations, lease agreement statutes, and eviction protocols, this guide strives to equip landlords and renters with an in-depth comprehension of the intricate details presented by Massachusetts' legal framework, as outlined in Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 186.
Let’s jump in!
Is Massachusetts considered a landlord-friendly state?
Ranking 38th on this list of the most landlord-friendly states, Massachusetts is considered to be a reasonably landlord-friendly state. The state lacks rent control laws, meaning landlords can set and increase rental prices as they wish. However, the state is less landlord-friendly than other states due to the strict regulations on fees that can be charged.
Massachusetts landlord tenant law fast facts
Massachusetts landlord rights and responsibilities
Massachusetts law provides landlords with certain rights that allow them to operate successful rental businesses protected from legal issues. Their main rights are:
- Collect rent payments when due
- Charge a security deposit to cover costs like damage beyond normal wear and tear
- Pursue a legal eviction if the tenant violates the lease agreement
Massachusetts rental owners also have responsibilities to uphold that ensure a smooth and safe tenancy for their renters. Some of their duties include:
- Providing tenants with a habitable unit that complies with the safety regulations of the local Board of Health
- Making necessary repairs in a “reasonable time”, usually 14 days, after receiving notice from a tenant
- Complying with laws governing security deposits and the eviction procedure
Massachusetts tenant rights and responsibilities
Like their landlord, Massachusetts's renters also have fundamental rights that ensure their legal protection during a lease period. Their key rights are as follows:
- Living in a safe and habitable rental unit that meets local health codes
- Having repairs made 14 days after providing the landlord with written notice
- Claim their security deposit once they decide to end the rental agreement
Massachusetts tenants also have their own set of obligations to manage while living in a rental unit. They must:
- Pay rent on time
- Keep the unit in a clean and habitable condition, including fixtures
- Perform small repairs and maintenance as needed
- Not disturb other renters or neighbors
Massachusetts landlord tenant law through the rental cycle
Massachusetts tenant screening and rental application laws
Unlike other states, landlords cannot charge a rental application or tenant screening fee in Massachusetts. Landlords are free to ask any questions on the rental application as long as they meet the criteria of the federal Fair Housing Act laws.
Furthermore, Massachusetts landlords can run background checks, such as credit reports, eviction history, and criminal history, but only if the prospective tenant has given signed consent.
Massachusetts rental agreement laws
In Massachusetts, a lease or rental agreement can be either written or oral. Tenancies less than 12 months do not require a rental agreement. However, it’s always recommended to create a written agreement as it states the landlord’s and tenant’s rights and responsibilities.
Massachusetts requires certain information to be included in lease agreements, which include:
- Name and contact information of the landlord or person responsible for the care of the rental
- Security deposit amount, and a clause stating it will be returned within 30 days after the end of the lease period
- A clause stating the landlord will provide a separate written statement of the present condition of the property
The landlord must provide the tenant with a copy of the written lease agreement within 30 days of obtaining the tenant’s signature.
Massachusetts security deposit laws
Massachusetts state law allows rental property owners to collect a security deposit to cover potential damage and other unforeseen costs at the end of a lease period. Landlords in the state cannot charge more than one month’s rent for the deposit. Ten days after the start of the tenancy, landlords must provide the renter with a written statement describing the condition of the rental unit.
Additional security deposit laws Massachusetts landlords should know include:
- A written receipt for the security deposit is required.
- For security deposits held for a year or longer, landlords must pay interest on them at the end of each year.
- Security deposits must be held in a separate interest-bearing bank account, and the landlord must inform the tenant of the bank and account number.
At the end of a lease, landlords must return the security deposit within 30 days with interest, unless they plan to make deductions. Allowable deductions include unpaid rent, water bills, damage exceeding normal wear and tear, and real estate taxes.
If the landlord fails to return the security deposit within 30 days, tenants can sue for three times the amount due, plus court costs, attorney fees, and 5% interest.
Massachusetts rent laws
Seeing that Massachusetts does not have rent control laws, landlords in the state may charge any amount for rent and increase rent as often as they like, except during the lease period unless the rental agreement allows for it.
Landlords may collect rent payments whenever they wish, as Massachusetts does not have any specific statutes covering rent.
If tenants fail to pay rent on time, landlords have to provide a 30-day grace period before charging a late fee. There are no limits on the fee itself. However, the fee must be reasonable.
Massachusetts law allows renters to withhold rent payments for repairs and maintenance.
Massachusetts repair and maintenance laws
Massachusetts landlords must provide a habitable rental property that complies with the state sanitary code and safety regulations of the local Board of Health. This involves keeping essential services, such as major utilities, in good, working condition.
After receiving written notice from a tenant, landlords must make repairs within a “reasonable amount of time”, usually 14 days.
If the landlord fails to make repairs within that time frame, renters can sue for costs, file a court order to force the landlord to make repairs, and use the “repair and deduct” remedy, in which they can make the repairs themselves and deduct the cost from the following rent payment.
Massachusetts notice of entry laws
Massachusetts landlords can enter their rental units for reasons including maintenance, inspections, property showings, and emergencies. Other than emergencies, it’s a general practice to provide tenants with 24 to 48 hours advanced notice before entering the property. The specific time frame is normally addressed in lease agreements.
Massachusetts eviction and lease termination laws
Massachusetts allows landlords to evict tenants for certain reasons, and depending on the reason, they must provide a specific notice period before moving forward with the eviction process. The reasons and notice periods for Massachusetts evictions are as follows:
- Unpaid rent: If a tenant fails to pay rent on time, the landlord may issue a 14-day notice to quit. If the tenant remains on the property after the notice period, landlords may move forward with the eviction.
- Lease violation: For lease violations, landlords are required to issue a 7-day notice to quit. Landlords do not have to wait for tenants to correct the issue before moving forward with the eviction.
- Illegal acts: If an at-will tenant commits an illegal act on the property, landlords must give them a 7-day notice to quit.
- No lease/end of lease: If tenants holdover or stay past the end of the tenancy, the landlord must provide them notice. Regardless of the length of the tenancy, the landlord should give a 30-day notice to quit.
It’s important to note that self-help evictions are illegal in Massachusetts. This includes depriving the tenant of access to the property or repossessing the dwelling unit before the time period designated in a notice to quit.
Tenants can also terminate a lease agreement early for the following reasons:
- Active military duty
- Domestic violence
- Landlord harassment
- Early termination clause
Like in other states, Massachusetts renters who break their lease early even for legal reasons may be liable for paying the rest of the rent owed. Their landlord is not required to help re-rent the unit.
Additional Massachusetts landlord tenant laws
In addition to covering rental topics like evictions and repairs, Massachusetts state law also addresses less-discussed issues like housing discrimination and retaliation. Explore some of the laws surrounding these matters below.
State and federal laws protect tenants from housing discrimination in Massachusetts. Under the federal Fair Housing Act, landlords or rental owners are prohibited from discriminating against potential renters based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability.
Massachusetts state laws go on to protect renters from discrimination based on characteristics including sexual orientation, gender identity, age, marital status, income source, military status, or genetic information.
If a landlord violates these laws, tenants can seek legal help and file a complaint with the appropriate authorities.
Like most other states, it’s illegal for Massachusetts landlords to retaliate with any substantial change in the tenancy against their tenants for taking protected actions like reporting the landlord to a government body for safety and health violations, joining a tenant union, or taking legal action against another household member for possible domestic abuse.
Massachusetts rental property owners must provide certain disclosures to tenants at the beginning of the lease period:
- Lead-based paint: Landlords with rentals built before 1978 must provide information about lead paint concentrations.
- Authorized authorities: Landlords must provide the names and addresses of all parties involved in owning and managing the property.
- Move-in checklist: Landlords must conduct a thorough inspection of the property and provide a written statement of the condition of the rental.
- Security deposit location: Rental owners are required to disclose the bank and account number where the tenant’s security deposit is held.
Bottom line: The importance of understanding Massachusett’s landlord tenant laws
Massachusett’s landlord-tenant laws are designed to safeguard the rights and responsibilities of both parties, establishing an equitable and just rental procedure. At their core, these laws help landlords and tenants cultivate a balanced rapport that results in favorable outcomes for each person involved.
For Massachusetts landlords, comprehending and abiding by these laws serves to safeguard their real estate investments and foster positive interactions with renters. Conversely, these laws aid tenants in comprehending their role in upholding a rental agreement and offer guidance on safeguarding themselves against legal complications.
Both renters and landlords should do their due diligence to grasp Massachusetts’s rental laws as they stand now and evolve and change into the future.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this post does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials are for general informational purposes only. This content may not constitute the most up-to-date legal information. No reader, user, or browser of this article should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information herein without first seeking the advice of a legal professional.