Massachusetts Tenant Rights
Massachusetts Landlord Tenant Law

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Types of Tenancy Your legal rights may vary depending on what type of tenancy you have.

A Tenant with a Lease is one who signs a lease to rent a particular apartment for a specified period of time. Under this tenancy, the landlord cannot increase your rent until the end of the lease, and cannot attempt to evict you before the end of your lease, unless you violate the lease agreement. You are legally obligated to pay your rent until the end of the lease. However, if you need to move out before the end of the lease, in most circumstances the landlord has a duty to help reduce your damages by looking for another tenant to replace you. Same in most states.

A Tenant at Will is one who occupies a rented apartment without a lease, but pays rent periodically (typically monthly). The agreement for the Tenancy at Will may be either written or verbal. Either the landlord or you may terminate this arrangement at any time by giving written notice 30 days or one full rental period in advance, whichever is longer. No reason is required to terminate. If your landlord wants to raise your rent, s/he must send you a proper legal notice terminating your tenancy, and then make you an offer to remain in the apartment for the increased rent.

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Rights Against Unlawful Entry: Your landlord, or an agent for your landlord, may only enter your apartment for the following reasons:

  • to inspect the premises;
  • to make repairs;
  • to show the apartment to a prospective tenant, purchaser, mortgagee or its agents;
  • in accordance with a court order;
  • if the premises appear to be abandoned, or
  • to inspect the premises within the last 30 days of tenancy in order to determine the amount of damage to be deducted from the security deposit.

The landlord should be reasonable and attempt to arrange a mutually convenient time to visit the apartment. If the landlord insists on entering your apartment in an unreasonable fashion, you may file for a temporary restraining order at your local district court. 

Rights Against Retaliation: Although the landlord of a tenant at will can terminate the tenancy or raise the rent without reason, s/he cannot do so in response to your exercising your legal rights. If the landlord tries to raise the rent, terminate or otherwise change your tenancy within six months of when you contact the Board of Health, join a tenants’ organization, or exercise other legal rights, the landlord’s action will be considered retaliation against you, unless the landlord can prove otherwise. The landlord will have the burden to prove that your tenancy was changed for reasons other than your having exercised your rights. 

Habitability Rights: You are entitled to a safe and habitable living environment. The State Sanitary Code protects the health, safety and well-being of tenants and the general public. The local Boards of Health enforce the code. (Note: In Boston, it is the Housing Inspection Department.) Copies of the Code may be purchased from the State House Bookstore, State House, Room 116, Boston, MA 02133 (617)727-2834.

Go to the Massachusetts Sanitary Code and Habitability Rights for an example of what a Massachusetts has to provide the tenant and for information on Rent Withholding and Repair and Deduct.

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