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Massachusetts Law About Landlord and Tenant

Best Bet

Legal Tactics, 7th ed., Annette R. Duke, editor, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, 2008, (Includes forms). Just about the best book written on Massachusetts tenants' rights, now also available as an eBook!

Massachusetts Laws

MGL c.186. Landlord-Tenant Law

MGL c. 93, s.114 Psychologically impacted Properties. Sellers and brokers do not have to disclose to buyers or tenants the fact that a property is perceived to be tainted by the health of a previous occupant, a murder or suicide, or paranormal phenomena. However, they may not be deceitful in answers to questions about the property.

MGL c. 140 s.22 Lodging House defined as "a house where lodgings are let to four or more persons not within second degree of kindred to the person conducting it."

MGL c. 175 s.99. Clause 15th A Every policy which insures multi-unit residential property against loss or damage by fire shall provide additional benefits, by endorsement attached to the policy, up to a limit of seven hundred and fifty dollars, without deductible, for each rental unit to cover the actual costs of relocation of any tenant or lawful occupant displaced by fire or by damage resulting from fire.

Massachusetts Regulations

105 CMR 410, State Sanitary Code Chapter II: Minimum Standards of Fitness for Habitation. Details all the key requirements for the property, including kitchens, bathrooms, electricity, ceiling height, and much much more.

105 CMR 410.400, Minimum Square Footage Per Person. Is your apartment big enough? Very detailed requirements for space per person.

940 CMR 3.17, Landlord-Tenant [Unfair and Deceptive Acts]. Specifies prohibited acts by landlords in the areas of conditions, notices, rental agreements, security deposits, evictions and more. Subsection (6)(e) outlines when a landlord may enter the tenant's home.

Selected Case Law

Nutt v. Florio, 75 Mass.App.Ct. 482 (2009). Liability for bite by tenant's dog. A dog bite victim sued the landlord of the owner of the dog, a pit bull. The court stated that the pitt bull is a breed "commonly known to be aggressive." "While the defendants may not be held strictly liable by virtue of Tiny's breed, knowledge of that breed and its propensities may properly be a factor to be considered in determining whether the defendants were negligent under common-law principles."

City of Worcester v. College Hill Properties, LLC , 465 Mass. 134 (2013) Lodging houses. The Court concluded that MGL c. 140, s. 22 (the lodging house law) "did not apply in circumstances in which four unrelated adults, who were college students, occupied apartments leased from the defendant property owners, where the apartments as occupied were not "lodgings" so as to render the defendants' properties "lodging houses" under the act."


Landlord-Tenant Forms

Other Web Sources

Attorney General's Guide to Landlord-Tenant Rights, Mass. Attorney General, June, 2007. 20-page guide covers terms of a rental agreement, security deposits and other payments, sanitary code requirements, evictions and discrimination.

Bed Bugs:

The Brothel Myth. Urban Legends Reference Page: College, Explains the history of the myth, but suggests that no proof has ever been produced that a law exists anywhere which prohibits more than four or six unrelated females from living together under a "brothel law." "We routinely hear from students who are convinced their particular university lacks a sorority because of this non-existent law. Their vehemence aside, none have yet produce a copy of the statute they so firmly believe in, an act that would earn their city and institution of higher learning a measure of fame in the world of contemporary lore."

Can the Landlord Just Come In?, Donahue and Grolman, March 23, 2006. "An overview of how and when a landlord can come into your apartment." podcast

Every Landlord's Guide to Finding Great Tenants, Nolo, 2013. Advertising and showing the property, screening tenants and more. Requires Library Card for access.

Every Landlord's Legal Guide, Nolo, 2012. Provides an overview of common landlord issues including preparing leases, security deposits, evictions and more. Requires Library Card for access.

Every Landlord's Tax Deduction Guide, Nolo, 2013. A plain English tax guide for landlords which includes information on repairs, startup expenses, depreciation and more. Requires Library Card for access.

Every Tenant's Legal Guide, Nolo, 2012. Includes information on leases , security deposits, discrimination, privacy, eviction and more. Requires Library Card for access.

First Time Landlord: Your Guide to Renting Out a Single-Family Home, Nolo, 2011. Requires Library Card for access.

The Good Neighbors Handbook: A Guide for Boston Landlords and Tenants, City of Boston's Rental Housing Center. A 52-page guide that covers finding an apartment, finding a tenant, roommates, information for students, security deposits, utilities, low-income housing, lodging houses, evictions, condominium conversion, fire and more. Explains the Boston zoning bylaw prohibiting more than four undergraduates from sharing an apartment in the city.

Housing Providers Rights and Responsibilities Under Federal and Massachusetts State Fair Housing Law, Mass. Housing, Jan. 2011. Explains fair housing / discrimination law to landlords, including: how to market your apartment legally, communication with prospective tenants, dealing with families and children, explanation of disabilities and the rights of the disabled, and more.

Housing Search Guide for People with Disabilities in Massachusetts: from A guide for disabled renters in Massachusetts, providing step-by-step assistance for your search.

How to Be a Landlord in Massachusetts and Avoid Legal Trouble, A. Joseph Ross, 2009.

How to Be a Tenant in Massachusetts and Avoid Getting Ripped Off, A. Joseph Ross, 2009.

Housing Code Checklist from Legal Tactics: Tenants' Rights in Massachusetts, "In Massachusetts, the state Sanitary Code is the primary source of law that gives tenants a right to decent housing. It sets the minimum legal standards that all landlords must meet."

Keep Your Housing: A Guide to Help Massachusetts Tenants with Mental Health Issues Keep Their Housing, Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee, August 2006. Detailed guide to obtaining reasonable accommodation, with forms.

Landlord Rights and Responsibilities, Office of Consumer Affairs & Business Regulation. Includes how to find tenants, security deposits, right of entry, evictions and more.

Leases and Rental Agreements, Nolo, 2013. Includes information on choosing the right tenant, preparing a lease or agreement, getting a tenant moved in, getting a tenant moved out and more. Requires Library Card for access.

Moving Tips for Tenants, A. Joseph Ross. Precautions to take when moving, "no matter how friendly you may be with your landlord."

Renters' Rights, Nolo, 2012. Not specific to Massachusetts, includes information on leases and rental agreements, discrimination, roommates, privacy, security deposits and more. Requires Library Card for access.

Roommate Limitations in Boston: Text Amendment No. 346, Boston Zoning Commission, March 13, 2008. Changes the definitions in the Boston Zoning Code, so that five or more unrelated undergraduates may not share an apartment.

Tenant Rights and Responsibilities, Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. Detailed guide to everything a tenant might want to know, including standards for heat and water, when a landlord may enter, and what to do if things go wrong.

Roommate Resources:

Safe and Sanitary Housing for Massachusetts Residents: Highlights of Chapter II of the State Sanitary Code, Mass. Secretary of the Commonwealth, Citizen Information Service.

The Tenant's Helper: A Handbook for Renters, 6th edition, Sept. 2006, City of Somerville. This 66-page book covers the usual information, like security deposits and evictions, but also includes information on discrimination, roommates, and tenants' rights after the sale of a building. Great resource.