AG Healey Offers Assistance to Students Living in Off-Campus Apartments
Push to Ensure Incoming Students Are Not Subjected to Unsafe or Uninhabitable Conditions
BOSTON – With college students heading back to school this week, Attorney General Maura Healey is advising those living off campus to know their rights as tenants and is offering an updated guide about renting an apartment in Massachusetts.
The off-campus housing initiative is being launched to inform students of their rights and to dedicate resources from the AG’s Office to ensure that students are not mistreated by their landlords or subjected to uninhabitable or unsafe conditions in their units. A number of issues may become a concern for off-campus student housing as apartments turn over, including the condition of the unit, the return of security deposits, and other landlord obligations.
“All tenants have the right to a safe and habitable unit,” AG Healey said. “We want students to be armed with the information they need so they understand their rights. We are working closely with local colleges and universities as well as municipal officials to ensure that conditions and safety problems are addressed promptly.”
The AG’s Office offers the following tips for students living off campus :
Before you sign
- Talk to the landlord, neighbors and other tenants about the unit.
- Ask the landlord questions – how much is the rent, who pays the utilities, etc.
- Look at the apartment – pictures you may see online may not accurately depict the space.
Signing the lease
- Read it carefully and make sure you understand the terms. You are bound by it.
- Don’t agree to something that is not on the lease.
- Unless you agree in writing to pay for a utility, the landlord must pay for it.
- Keep a signed copy of your lease – your landlord has 30 days to provide it.
- The most a landlord can charge you when moving in is first month’s rent, last month’s rent, a security deposit, and the cost of installing a new lock.
- If you pay a security deposit, you are entitled to a “statement of condition” that lists any problems with the unit at the time you move in.
- Write down everything that needs repair, otherwise the landlord may hold you responsible.
- Take photos to document the apartment’s condition.
Living in your place
- If you have problems with the conditions of your unit, you should report them to the landlord, preferably in writing (including email).
- If the landlord refuses to make repairs, you have the right to get a free inspection by a local health inspector.
- It’s illegal for the landlord to retaliate against you for asking that repairs be made or for requesting an inspection.
- You have the right to get your security deposit back, plus interest – the landlord is only entitled to deduct for unpaid rent, or damage you caused beyond normal wear and tear.
- If the landlord doesn’t return all of your deposit, the landlord must tell you in writing what the money was used for.
- A landlord can never force a tenant to move out without going to court first.
Students with questions or concerns about their rights as tenants or who are experiencing problems with their units as they move in are encouraged to call the office’s consumer hotline at (617) 727-8400 or file a complaint online at https://www.eform.ago.state.ma.us/ago_eforms/forms/piac_ecomplaint.action.