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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.


Web sources

Bed bugs


Other topics

Print sources

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

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

Residential landlord-tenant benchbook, Flashner Institute, 2013.



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Last updated: August 2, 2021