Laws and Regulations

Every rental agreement must have certain terms, and is prohibited by law from containing other terms ( M.G.L. c. 186, s. 15A-F, 16 ).

The lease must set forth the name, address, and phone number of the owner, the person responsible for maintenance, and person to whom the tenant can give copies of formal notices, complaints, or court papers.

If the landlord receives a security deposit, the lease or rental agreement has to show the amount paid, and must explain the tenant's rights to that security deposit money ( M.G.L. c. 186, s. 15B ).

The landlord must make sure that the tenant is given a legible copy of any lease or rental agreement ( M.G.L. c. 186, s. 15D ). The lease must not include illegal terms such as:

  • The tenant must pay for the cost of repairing ordinary wear and tear to the apartment.
  • The tenant must pay for repairs to parts of the building beyond the tenant's apartment.
  • The tenant may not sue the landlord or report violations of the Sanitary Code.
  • The tenant may not join a tenants' union.
  • The tenant must pay a late fee if a rent payment is even one day late. (A lease or rental agreement may permit the landlord to charge a late fee if a rent payment is 30 or more days late.)

Other Considerations

There are many laws and regulations that govern the obligations of landlords and tenants. In addition to these laws, there are several issues that any prospective tenant should consider before renting an apartment and of which a landlord should be aware before beginning to show an apartment for rent. For example:

  • Does the rent cover all utilities? If the tenant is responsible for paying for the heat and hot water, the landlord should make clear whether these run on electric power, oil, natural gas, or propane. Is there is information available that will provide a prospective tenant with an idea of the annual utility costs for the apartment?
  • The landlord and the prospective tenant together should check every plumbing fixture, light switch, cupboard door, and appliance to make sure they all work properly. If repairs are necessary, both parties should discuss whether the landlord will make the repairs before the tenant moves in.
  • Similarly, the lease or rental agreement should include a list of all repairs that the landlord agrees to make during the tenancy, and the timeframe in which the repairs must be completed.
  • The lease or rental agreement should also note if major appliances are included with the tenancy, such as a refrigerator, stove, washing machine, etc.
  • Is parking available? Is there a fee involved, and if so, is it included in the rental payment?
  • Will the landlord or the tenant will be responsible for snow shoveled from the walks in winter? Is it plowed from the driveway or parking area? Is there a fee involved, and if so, who pays for it?