Massachusetts Landlord-Tenant Laws

Massachusetts can be an appealing spot for a new investment with a median rent rate of $2,900. However, there is a lot more than the possibility of a high rent rate to consider when thinking about a new property. There are many laws that dictate what landlords can and cannot do when renting to tenants in Massachusetts, and below are some of the most relevant ones to guide your research.

Evictions

There are several different notices landlords need to consider before starting the evictions process. For example, a tenant committing a lease violation for noise may require a different notice than someone who has unpaid rent.

For rent demand notices, landlords must give their tenant at least 14 days to pay before filing for eviction. If the tenant commits another type of lease violation besides nonpayment, like property damage or excessive noise, the landlord will have previously stated the amount of notice required in the written rental agreement.

When evicting a tenant, it’s important to keep Massachusetts fair housing law in mind. Federally, landlords are prohibited from discriminating against anyone on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, or familial status. Massachusetts state law adds sexual orientation, gender identity, age, ancestry, genetic information, marital status, veteran/military status, and source of income.

Security Deposits

Most landlords charge a security deposit to cover unforeseen damages or unpaid fees remaining upon move out. In Massachusetts, landlords need to keep this deposit in a separate bank account that bears interest, and the deposits cannot be intermingled with the landlords’ other assets. Also, according to Massachusetts security deposit law, the deposit amount should be limited to one month’s rent, and the landlord needs to pay interest on it at the rate of 5% a year or the percent received from the bank.

Some other things to keep in mind concerning deposits is that you must return the amount within 30 days of the tenant moving out. Also, you can withhold funds from this deposit for unpaid rent, water charges, damage repair, or an increase in real estate taxes.

Entry

It’s important to know when you can enter your property to maintain boundaries and a level of privacy for your tenant. However, occasionally you need to enter for something that cannot be put off, and you need to know legally when you can do so.

Landlord tenant laws in Massachusetts do not require that landlords give advanced notice before entering a unit. However, usually 24 hours’ notice is recommended. State law also doesn’t have any restrictions for entering at any particular time of day. You may need to enter one of your units for a showing or inspection, or if the unit appears to have been abandoned.

If you have to enter because of an emergency, you may do so without giving prior notice.

Rent and Fees

Massachusetts upholds the “repair and deduct” remedy, which allows tenants to withhold rent when a landlord neglects certain maintenance obligation. More specifically, the tenant can recover the difference between the fair value of the property and what they pay for rent, along with any amounts that were reasonably spent to fix the issue that the landlord was neglecting.

The rent due date should be specified in your rental agreement, and there is no statewide rent control or  late fees. The mandatory grace period is 30 days, and if your tenant pays rent with a check for less than $2,500 and it bounces, the landlord may charge a fee of $25 or less.

It’s important to note that it’s illegal for landlords to charge their tenants an application fee in Massachusetts.

Conclusion

The first step in your possible new investment is ironing out any possible legal issues that could arise when doing so. When in doubt, hire an attorney to review your decisions. The information above should give you a great starting point for further investigation into the specifics of investing in Massachusetts.

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