For Immediate Release - August 25, 2005

Ensuring A Smooth Move

Advice to tenants on their rights, landlord responsibilities and choosing a mover

The migration of thousands of students back to Boston for the coming school year is underway. The Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs urges students and families making the transition to new housing to be aware of the terms of contracts and leases before they sign.

"At a bare minimum, renters need to know basic requirements and protections to avoid jumping into a bad housing or moving experience. Our office distributed posters this summer pdf format of landlordtenant_poster_3.pdf
to city and town halls, public libraries and college campuses to remind tenants of their rights," said Consumer Affairs Director Beth Lindstrom.

Before Signing a Lease or Agreeing to Tenancy

  • Be sure an apartment meets your needs and note the condition of the unit in writing before you put down a deposit or sign a lease. A written statement of necessary repairs attached to a lease agreement obligates the landlord to make reasonable and necessary repairs and may also protect your security deposit upon moving out.
  • Ask prospective neighbors for references on your landlord's or management company's competency and reputation. Doing so could be influential in deciding whether to live there.

The Security Deposit/Last Month's Rent

  • Neither should exceed more than one month's rent and both should be held in an interest bearing account. If either is not held in an interest bearing account, the renter is entitled to 5% interest annually.
  • Within thirty days of the landlord receiving a security deposit, he must give the renter a receipt identifying the bank's name and address, the account number and the amount of the deposit. A renter does not have to live in an apartment for a full year to be entitled to interest on last month's rent.
  • The security deposit must be returned to a renter within 30 days after the tenancy has terminated. Generally, landlords can only deduct from a security deposit for unpaid rent or a reasonable amount for damages done over the course of the tenancy. If the landlord deducts for damages, he must provide a list of the damages, necessary repairs and written cost estimates within 30 days after the tenancy has ended.

Landlord Responsibilities

  • Landlords should provide structural maintenance, snow removal at all exits as well as water and heat, unless separate meters exist for heating and sub-meters are present in each unit for measuring water use.
  • Landlords must provide a heating system in good working order. Each room must be heated to at least 68° F between 7:00 AM and 11:00 PM, and at least 64° F at all other times during the heating season. The maximum temperature allowed is 78° F.
  • Landlords must provide tenants with a sink, stove and oven in good working order. Providing a refrigerator is not mandatory, but if provided it must be in good working order.
  • Tenants are entitled to a safe and habitable living environment. Contact the local Board of Health if you believe your apartment is unsafe or unsanitary. If violations are found, the landlord must start making necessary repairs within 5 days of being notified by the Board of Health and must complete repairs within 14 days. You may be able to withhold rent if these corrective steps are not taken.

Choosing Movers

  • Avoid hiring unlicensed movers! Licensed in-state movers must file rates with the state and carry cargo insurance to cover damages. The state can investigate complaints against licensed in-state movers for non-compliance.
  • Research a moving company's complaint history. For in-state movers, contact the DTE's Transportation Division at 617-305-3559 and the Better Business Bureau. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulates out-of-state movers and can be contacted at (888) 368-7238.
  • Obtain cost estimates from several licensed movers in advance. Know whether the cost is determined by an hourly rate or actual cargo weight. Understand any additional costs for overtime, mileage and moving supplies.
  • Movers are required to prepare and give customers a signed "Bill of Lading" before the move occurs. This is your contract. Read it very closely. Make sure it shows the company's license number, address, phone number, load and delivery dates, agreed upon charges/potential additional charges and agreed upon method of payment. Many movers do not accept credit cards!
  • During unloading, have your household inventory handy. Check items carefully for damage. Do not sign any receipt that doesn't document all missing or damaged items.

Consumers with questions about their rights may call the Office of Consumer Affairs hotline staff toll-free at (888) 283-3757. Information on tenants rights and moving tips can be found at http://www.mass.gov/consumer. Select the "consumer" tab at the top of the homepage.