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Massachusetts law about landlord and tenant

A compilation of laws, regulations, cases, and web sources on landlord and tenant law in general. For more specific landlord-tenant topics, see "Related," below.

Table of Contents

Best bet

Legal tactics, 8th ed., Annette R. Duke, editor, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, 2018, with current updates (includes forms)
Just about the best book written on Massachusetts tenants' rights.

Massachusetts laws

MGL c.186 Landlord-tenant law

  • MGL c.186, §§ 23-29 Domestic violence
    Lets victims of domestic violence end a lease or get their locks changed.

MGL c. 93, § 114 Psychologically impacted properties
Sellers and brokers don't have to tell buyers or tenants about a murder or suicide in the house, or about ghosts or other paranormal activity. However, they can't lie if they are asked about it.

MGL c. 140 § 22 Lodging house 
A lodging house or boarding house is a house that rents out individual rooms to 4 or more people.

MGL c. 175 § 99 Clause 15th A
An insurance policy for a multi-unit apartment building must provide coverage up to a limit of $750 for each unit to cover the cost moving costs of any tenant who has to move because of a 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 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

Ardon v. Kaivas, 92 Mass. App. Ct. 1110 (2017)
Intentionally depriving a tenant of access to a common area basement for a period of less than a month did not, without more, rise to the level of a substantial interference with her tenancy.

Blake v. Hometown Communities, Inc., 486 Mass. 268 (2020)
A manufactured home community charged newer residents $96 per month more than they charged other residents. This requirement that some renters pay additional rent for essentially the same lots was a violation of the Manufactured Home Act, G. L. c. 140, § 32L (2).

Creatini v. McHugh, 99 Mass. App. Ct. 126 (2021)
A landlord does not bear responsibility to a passerby in the street for injuries caused by a tenant's dog after the dog leaves the landlord's property. 

Karaa v. Yim, 86 Mass. App. Ct. 714 (2014)
Discusses mitigation of damages, stating "who bears the burden at trial regarding the mitigation of damages within the landlord-tenant context is the subject of some uncertainty in Massachusetts." See footnote 10 in the case for an explanation of the uncertainty regarding burden of proof of mitigation of damages, with cites to various sources.

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 pit 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."

Phillips v. Equity Residential Management, L.L.C., 478 Mass. 251 (2017) 
Triple damages apply to deductions wrongfully made from a deposit, not to defects in the statement of damages, such as the failure to include the required statutory pains and penalties wording in the statement.

South Boston Elderly Residences, Inc. v. Moynahan, 91 Mass. App. Ct. 455 (2017) 
In a warranty of habitability case, the Appeals Court, applied the tort principle that “the defendant must take its plaintiff as it finds him or her” and held that where material breach of the warranty of habitability occurred, a tenant’s special sensitivity to a condition in the apartment may be considered in the determination of the “diminished value to him” of the premises due to its defective condition.  The Appeals Court also held that a lease which permits a landlord a right to access an apartment for purposes of inspection and repair does not create blanket authority for the landlord to enter at any time without the tenant’s permission in derogation of a tenant’s quiet enjoyment rights under statute.

Worcester v. College Hill Properties, LLC, 465 Mass. 134 (2013)
Lodging houses. An apartment rented to 4 college students to share is not a lodging house.

Forms

Web sources

Bed bugs

Roommates

Other topics

  • Attorney General's guide to landlord-tenant rights, Mass. Attorney General, August 2015. 18-page guide covers terms of a rental agreement, security deposits and other payments, sanitary code requirements, evictions, and discrimination.
  • MassachusettsLandlords.net, Everything you need to be a landlord. MassLandlords is the landlord trade association for Massachusetts. We have lease agreements, eviction notices, and every other kind of landlord help you need. Membership is open to anyone who rents property, however large or small, and those who can help landlords, like attorneys and contractors. Each membership supports better landlord-tenant laws. Some information is available whereby membership is not needed. 
  • Renting in Boston, City of Boston, 2020
    Covers leases and agreements, deposits and fees, insurance, conditions, noise, renters' rights, and more.
  • The brothel myth. Urban legends reference page: college, Snopes.com
    Explains the history of the myth, but suggests that no proof has ever been produced that a law exists anywhere which prohibits more than 4 or 6 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."
  • How to be a landlord in Massachusetts and avoid legal trouble, A. Joseph Ross, revised May 2020
    This extensive document covers everything from screening tenants through eviction, including utilities, lead paint, security deposits, domestic violence, and more.
  • How to be a tenant in Massachusetts and avoid getting ripped off, A. Joseph Ross, revised May 2020
    A lengthy guide that covers all the key issues for a tenant, including security deposits, utilities, lead paint, landlords entering the apartment, and more.
  • 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. All rental housing must at least meet the state Sanitary Code."
  • 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, Chapa.org, 2013.
    A guide for disabled renters in Massachusetts, providing step-by-step assistance for your search
  • Landlord rights and responsibilities, Office of Consumer Affairs & Business Regulation
    Includes how to find tenants, security deposits, right of entry, evictions, and more
  • A landlord's right to enter, Patch.com, 2013
    Explains state law and when a landlord may enter your apartment.
  • Moving tips for tenants, A. Joseph Ross, 2020
    Precautions to take when moving, "no matter how friendly you may be with your landlord."
  • Overview of landlord-tenant laws in Massachusetts, Nolo.com
    "Both landlords and tenants should be able to deal with many legal questions and problems without a lawyer, once they understand the basics of state law. This overview of key landlord-tenant laws in Massachusetts will get you started."
  • Tenant rights, 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.
  • 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, 7th edition, 2018, City of Somerville
    This 47-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.

Print sources

Every landlord's guide to finding great tenants by Janet Portman, Nolo, 2020.

Every landlord's guide to managing property : best practices, from move-in to move-out by Michael Boyer, Nolo, 2021.

Every landlord's legal guide by Marcia Stewart, Nolo, 2020.

Every landlord's tax deduction guide by Stephen Fishman, Nolo, 2020.

Every tenant's legal guide by Janet Portman, Nolo, 2021.

First-time landlord : your guide to renting out a single-family home by Janet Portman, Nolo, 2020.

Landlord and tenant law: with forms (Mass. practice v.33-33A), West Group, 2000, with supplements.

Leases & rental agreements by Marcia Stewart, Nolo, 2019.

Renters' rights by Janet Portman, Nolo, 2021.

Residential and commercial landlord-tenant practice in Massachusetts, MCLE, 2016, with supplements, loose-leaf.

Residential landlord-tenant benchbook, Flashner Institute, 2013.

Contact

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Last updated: November 30, 2021
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