Massachusetts Rental Laws

Written on February 28, 2014 by , updated on January 4, 2018

Massachusetts FlagThis article summarizes some key Massachusetts landlord-tenant laws applicable to residential rental units.

The Official State Statutes and other reputable municipal sources were used to research this information.  All sources are cited appropriately.

With that said, landlord-tenant laws are always changing, and may even vary from county to county.  You have a responsibility to perform your own research and cautiously apply the laws to your unique situation.

If you have a legal question or concern, I only recommend contacting a licensed attorney referral service that is operated by the state bar association.

Official Rules and Regulations

Security Deposit:

  • Security Deposit Maximum: One month’s rent. (MGL c.186 § 15B(1)(b)(iii))
  • Deadline for Returning Security Deposit: 30 days after occupancy (MGL c.186 § 15B(3)(a))
  • Security Deposit Interest: For yearly leases, landlord must pay 5% interest per year, or other such lesser amount of interest as has been received from the bank where the deposit has been held payable to the tenant at the end of each year of the tenancy. Such interest shall be paid over to the tenant each year, however, that in the event that the tenancy is terminated before the anniversary date of the tenancy, the tenant shall receive all accrued interest within thirty days of such termination. (MGL c.186 § 15B(3)(b))
  • Separate Security Deposit Bank Account:
    • Required, the deposit shall be held in a separate, interest-bearing account in a bank, located within Massachusetts. (MGL c.186 § 15B(3)(a))
    • The deposit hall not be commingled with the assets of the landlord. (MGL c.186 § 15B(1)(e))
  • Statement of Condition: If collecting a deposit, within 10 days of move-in, landlord must provide a statement documenting the condition of the premises. It must contain specific language found in MGL c.186 § 15B(2)(c).
  • Move-Out Checklist/Itemized List of Damages and Charges: Yes, landlord must provide an itemized list of damages within 30 days after tenant departure. Landlord must itemizing in precise detail the nature of the damage and of the repairs necessary to correct such damage, and provide written evidence, such as estimates, bills, invoices or receipts, indicating the actual or estimated cost thereof. (MGL c.186 § 15B(4)(iii))
  • Record Keeping of Deposit Withholdings: Two years. Landlords are required to keep specific information described in MGL c.186 § 15B(2)(d)(iii).
  • Receipt of Deposit: A receipt shall be given to the tenant within thirty days after the deposit is received.  The receipt shall indicate the name and location of the bank in which it has been deposited and the amount and account number of said deposit. (MGL c.186 § 15B(3)(a))
  • Failure to Comply: If the landlord fails to comply with (MGL c.186 § 15B(6)(a), (d), or (e)), the tenant shall be awarded damages in an amount equal to three times the amount of such security deposit or balance thereof to which the tenant is entitled plus interest at the rate of 5% from the date when such payment became due, together with court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees. (MGL c.186 § 15B(7))
  • Exemptions: The provisions MGL c.186 § 15B of shall not apply to any lease, rental, occupancy or tenancy of one hundred days or less in duration which lease or rental is for a vacation or recreational purpose. (MGL c.186 § 15B(9))

Lease, Rent & Fees:

  • Rent Is Due: No Statute
  • Rent Increase Notice: 30 days. (source)
  • Rent Grace Period: 30 Days (MGL c.186 § 15B(1)(c))
  • Late Fees: Allowed (MGL c.186 § 15B(1)(c))
  • Prepaid Rent: First and last month’s rent is the maximum allowed to be collected at or prior to the commencement of any tenancy. (MGL c.186 § 15B(1)(b)(i-ii)) Landlord must provide a receipt of any prepaid rent. Landlord must pay interest to the tenant on any prepaid rent: 5% interest per year, or other such lesser amount of interest as has been received from the bank where the prepaid rent has been held, payable to the tenant at the end of the tenancy. (MGL c.186 § 15B(2)(a))
  • Returned Check Fees: May not exceed $30. (source)
  • Tenant Allowed to Withhold Rent for Failure to Provide Essential Services (Water, Heat, etc.): Yes, but it must be deposited with a clerk of the courts and follow instructions found in MGL c.239 § 8.
  • Tenant Allowed to Repair and Deduct Rent: Yes, but the tenant must give landlord 14 days written notice to repair the defect. A tenant may not deduct an amount greater than four months’ rent in any twelve-month period, or period of occupancy, whichever is shorter, from rent due to the owner. (MGL c.111 § 127L)
  • Landlord Allowed to Recover Court and Attorney Fees: Yes (MGL c.186 § 15B(7))
  • Landlord Must Make a Reasonable Attempt to Mitigate Damages, including an Attempt to Rerent: No Statute

Notices and Entry:

  • Notice to Terminate Tenancy – Lease with No End Date: If payment intervals are 3 month’s or longer, then 3 month’s notice is required. (MGL c.186 § 12)
  • Notice to Terminate Tenancy – Fixed End Date in Lease: No Statute. Typically no notice is needed as the lease simply expires.
  • Notice to Terminate Tenancy – Month-to-Month Lease:  Equal to the interval between the days of payment or thirty days, whichever is longer. (MGL c.186 § 12)
  • Notice to Terminate Tenancy – Week-to-Week Lease: No Statute
  • Notice of Date/Time of Move-Out Inspection: No Statute
  • Notice of Termination of All Other Leases for Nonpayment: 14 days notice. Tenant can remedy or pay with interest during that time if tenant has not received a notice to quit for nonpayment of rent within the last twelve months. (MGL c.186 § 11MGL c.186 § 12)
  • Termination for Lease Violation: No Statute
  • Termination for Illegal Activity: Landlords may terminate a tenancy with no notice to the tenant if a unit was used for prostitution, illegal gambling, the illegal keeping or sale of alcoholic beverages, or the possession, sale, or manufacturing of illegal drugs, among other violations. (MGL c.139 § 19)
  • Required Notice before Entry: No Statute, but 24 hours is recommended. (MGL c.186 § 15B(1)(a))
  • Entry Allowed with Notice for Maintenance and Repairs (non-emergency): Yes (MGL c.186 § 15B(1)(a))
  • Entry Allowed with Notice for Showings: Yes (MGL c.186 § 15B(1)(a))
  • Emergency Entry Allowed without Notice: Yes (MGL c.186 § 15B(1)(a))
  • Entry Allowed During Tenant’s Extended Absence: No Statute (MGL c.186 § 15B(1)(a))
  • Notice to Tenants for Pesticide Use: No Statute
  • Lockouts Allowed: No (source)
  • Utility Shut-offs Allowed: No (MGL c.186 § 14)
  • Penalty for a Self-Help Eviction: If the landlord illegally evicts a tenant, the tenant may recover possession of the unit, or terminate the rental agreement and, in either case, recover three months’ rent or three times the damages sustained, and the cost of suit, including reasonable attorney’s fees. (MGL c.186 § 15F)

Disclosures and Miscellaneous Notes:

  • Landlord Responsibilities: (handbook)
    • Water: The landlord must provide the means for enough water and pressure to satisfy ordinary needs. Landlord also must provide the means to heat the water to 110F-130F degrees. Tenant may be responsible for the cost of water and fuel to heat it.
    • Heat: From September 16 to June 14, every room must be heated to at least 68º F between 7:00 AM and 11 PM, and at least 64º F at all other hours. Tenant may be responsible for the fuel/electricity to heat the unit.
    • Kitchen: The landlord must provide within the kitchen: a sink of sufficient size and capacity for washing dishes and kitchen utensils, a stove and oven in good repair (unless your written lease requires you to provide your own), and space and proper facilities for the installation of a refrigerator. The landlord does not have to provide a refrigerator. If a refrigerator is provided, however, the landlord must keep it in working order.
    • Cockroaches and Rodents: The landlord must maintain the unit free from rodents, cockroaches, and insect infestation, if there are two or more apartments in the building.
  • Name and Addresses: Landlord must disclose the name and address of the property owner, anyone authorized to manage the property, amount of security deposit, and the tenant’s security deposit rights. (handbook)
  • Disclosure of Insurance: Within 15 days of request by a tenant or government official, the landlord must provide the name of the property insurance company, the amount of insurance, and the name of any person who would receive payment for a loss covered by such insurance. Violation of this shall be punishable by a fine not more than $500. (MGL c.186 § 21)
  • Domestic Violence Situations:
    • Proof of Status: Landlord is entitled to verify claim of Domestic Violence status. (MGL c.186 § 24(a))
    • Termination of Lease: A tenant is allowed to terminate a lease with proof of Domestic Violence status, however the request to terminate must happen within 3 months from the incident date. (MGL c.186 § 24(b))
    • Landlord Cannot Terminate Lease: A landlord may not refuse to enter into a rental agreement based on the tenant’s or applicant’s or a household member’s status as a victim of domestic violence, or having previously terminated a lease or requested a lock change due to domestic violence. (MGL c.186 § 25)
    • Locks: Upon request, the landlord must change the locks or allow the tenant to change the locks to the dwelling at the tenant’s expense. (MGL c.186 § 26)
  • Retaliation: Landlord must not terminate a lease, refuse to renew a lease, or raise the rent to a tenant who has, exercised a legal right, filed an official complaint to a Government Authority, has been involved in a tenant’s organization, or has withheld rent for poor condition. Retaliation will be assumed if landlord responds negatively within 6 months of tenants action. (MGL c.186 § 18MGL c.239 § 2A)
  • Lead Disclosure: Landlords must disclose all known lead paint hazards. Landlords must also provide tenants, as an attachment to a written lease, with an information pamphlet on Lead-based paint hazards.
  • Children: Landlord may not prohibit or restrict the occupancy of children. (MGL c.186 § 16)

Court & Legal Related:

Business Licenses:

  • Business License Required: No state-wide statute, but local cities and counties may have regulations and requirements.  Check with your local governing authority.

Get Help

  • Housing Discrimination:
    Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination
    (617) 994-6000
  • Licensing of Real Estate Brokers/Salespersons:
    Division of Registration
    Information: Real Estate Board (617) 727-2373
    Complaints: Office of Investigations (617) 727-7406
  • Lead Paint Removal:
    Department of Public Health
    Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program
    (617) 624-5757; Toll Free: (800) 532-9571
  • Face-to-Face Mediation:
    For the program in your area call:
    Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline
  • Housing Consumer Education Center:
    (800) 224-5124;
  • To Obtain Legal Assistance:
    Massachusetts Bar Association Lawyer Referral Program
    (617) 654-0400; Toll Free in MA: (800) 392-6164
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