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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142 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Cathy Ann

    As a landlord: if your tenants refuse to pay rent, and subsequently there are code violations in the rental units due to lack of funds to maintain the property, can you be sued by these non-paying tenants? From my reading of M.G.L. c. 111, § 127, it sounds as though my tenants can make the repairs on their own, and deduct the cost from the rent (which they are not paying anyhow). Am I legally liable for not being able to afford the necessary repairs? This would be in relation to a water heater malfunctioning.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Cathy Ann,

      I’m sorry you’re in this situation. Yes, you are liable to keep the premise in habitable condition – regardless of whether or not they refuse to pay rent. However, you are not required to make repairs that don’t effect habitability. For example, you would be required to fix a broken water pipe, but not required to fix tub faucet that drips. Unfortunately, yes, you are responsible for ensuring they have hot water – which is necessary for basic sanitation and cleanliness.

      If they refuse to pay rent, you need to evict them ASAP. If you take them to court, you can get a judgement for the rent that they owe you, and even garnish their wages if they have a steady job. My suggestion to you is to ensure the premise is habitable, and then evict them and go after the missing rent.

      Keep in mind, I’m not a lawyer, and an attorney would be able to give you legal advice specific to your situation. In the post above, there are a few links to legal aid services that could help you get legal advice for free.

  • Dee

    Luke, awesome site by the way! I have a question how to read the legal citation. I’ve been googling but it doesn’t answer my question still about “1a”. If I were to read this (MGL c.186 § 15B(1)(a) would it be “Massachusetts General Law CHAPTER 186 SECTION 15B Part 1A?” Please let me know. Thank you!

  • marc merullo

    Hi, i have a tenant who has not paid since May. She will owe 6 months rent starting Nov 8. What are the best methods to collect from her?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Marc,

      From one landlord to another, you need to nip this behavior in the bud next time. Don’t ever let non-payment go a week, let alone 6 months.

      I think your first step is to get the tenant to move out so you can fill the unit with someone who will pay. Once you restore that unit as a source of income, then you can worry about collected back-due rent. If you’ve allowed the tenant to take advantage of you for 6 months, you’re not going to get anything out of him/her while they are living there. Get them out first, then sue the snot out of them.

      If they refuse to move, you have to formally terminate their lease, with proper notice. Then you file an eviction action in court to get the sheriff to remove the tenant by force. Here’s a helpful guide:

      Once the tenant is out, you can go after the former debt. You could try a service like Rent Recover Service ( or ask for a wage garnishment when the judge issues his/her judgement. Talking to a lawyer would be helpful to (which I am not!)

      Good luck!

  • Susan Stafford

    My question is when a new tenant moves into an apartment what is the landlord responsible for?
    For example is he responsible to paint and make sure the apartment is clean?
    Thanks Susan

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Susan,

      Generally speaking, the landlord is responsible for issues of habitability. However, the unwritten standard is that a unit must be clean and fully functional when a tenant moves in. To support this, at the end of a lease, a tenant is only responsible to return the unit to the condition it was in when the tenant moved in. So, if a unit wasn’t clean upon move-in, the landlord can’t hold the tenant responsible for cleaning prior to move-out.

      Like I said, this is just the standard, and there are plenty of landlords that try to get away with doing as little as possible. I’ve never heard of a statute requiring a landlord to paint between tenants, but if you find one, let me know.

      Good luck. Please know that this is not legal advice, as I am not a lawyer.

  • Vito

    Hi Lucas,

    I really find this site quite informative and thanks for going out of your way for doing this.

    My question is: If a tenant signs rental agreement and pays the deposit say,first, last security. That person is scheduled to move in several weeks later but runs into issues and cannot take possession. Can the landlord keep the funds? what percentage?, how does that work?

    Many thanks

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Vito,

      It all depends on the situation. Is the landlord preventing the tenant from moving in? Is the unit not ready when promised? Or did the tenant change his/her mind?

      Once the contract is signed, both parties must deliver. The landlord must deliver a habitable unit, and the tenant must pay rent (even if the tenant never moves-in).

      If the landlord doesn’t deliver, he/she should allow the tenant a chance to break the lease, and if so, return all the money.

      If the tenant is trying to break the lease, he/she might be subject to early termination fees, loss of funds, and lawsuits for any further damages. Eventually the landlord will find a replacement tenant, upon which, the landlord should release the previous tenant from his/her obligations.

      This is generally how it works, but please check with a lawyer in your city/county. Though this advice is sound, it’s from the perspective of a landlord (not a lawyer), and not legal advice.

      • vito

        Thanks Lucas,

        It’s really nice to belong to such a resourceful website and actually to have a response back. There is a wealth of information here that helps both landlord and tenants in terms of better preparation for reliable housing.
        Best and enjoy your Thanksgiving!


  • Ralph

    As a renter, if I give over 30 days notice of moving and breaking lease am I responsible for anything more than the change of occupancy fee?

    Thank you,


    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Ralph,

      What kind of lease do you have? If it’s a fixed term lease, you don’t have the “right” to break it, even if you give 30 days notice. That’s the point of signing a fixed-term lease.

      If it’s a month-to-month lease, then 30 days notice from the rent due date, is all a tenant would need to provide.

      Check your lease agreement to see what stipulations there are to breaking a fixed-term lease.

  • Edith Dixon

    You seem like a great source, so I’m hoping you can help me. My husband and I gave notice to our landlord that we’ll be leaving (60+ days in advance). Since then, she’s become very hostile, threatening to have the townhouse condemned, sue us, have us arrested, etc. We’ve let most of it slide since she appears to be unbalanced, but now she’s sent a text telling us to remove our dog.

    We leave in less than three weeks anyhow. Can she do this? Do we have any recourse?


    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Edith

      Are you breaking a lease early, or did you just give notice that you would be leaving at the end of your lease? If you aren’t trying to break the lease early, then you’ve haven’t done anything wrong. In fact, it was very nice of you to give her 60 days notice, so she can try to find a replacement.

      If I were in your shoes, I wouldn’t worry about it. She’s just pissed off that you are leaving and that she has to do work to find another tenant. Condemning the building would only hurt her, and what the world could she sue you for (unless you are breaking the lease early).

      If you are allowed to have a dog (via the lease), then she can’t change her mind now. Worst, even if she has a right to tell you to remove it, she would then have to terminate your lease for the violation, and take you to eviction court if you refuse to leave. All that will take longer than 3 weeks.

      Anyway, that’s just my opinion. I’m not a lawyer, nor is this legal advice. If you look at the big picture, she’s just mad, but doesn’t have very many real options.

  • mortgagetime

    Well I am a small time owner of a 4 family rental property. I entered into a weekly rental agreement…a verbal weekly agreement. Its been over a year now of weekly T.A.W. verbal agreement. But now to give notice to quit do I need to give 30 days notice or 7 days notice to quit? I am assuming that I need to give no reason other than I no longer am continueing the weeky t.a.w. also.. I see there is no specific statute for time of notice regarding a weekly taw ..verbal

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi there,

      You are correct in that monthly or weekly tenancies can be terminated by either party, for any reason at all. That’s the point.

      MGL c.186 § 12 says:
      “…if the rent reserved is payable at periods of less than three months, the time of such notice shall be sufficient if it is equal to the interval between the days of payment or thirty days, whichever is longer. ”

      To me (though I’m not a lawyer), it sounds like this statute would apply to weekly tenancies too, and 30 days would need to be given. But that’s just my non-legal interpretation.

      Feel free to consult an attorney to get actual legal advice on this.

  • Susan Ross

    I am one of the .0001% of Section 8 recipients who receives it because I am legally disabled from 9/11. A head of my tenants’ groups in Manhattan for 30 years I have won more than a dozen lawsuits against my slumlords and made the front pages of the NYC papers including the NY Times. Nothing prepared me for the landlords I’ve had since moving to Cape Cod. Section 8 has been equally reprehensible in their behavior failing to act when we discovered we have life threatening health and safety issues which include toxic mold which has killed one tenant and dangerous wiring. I have had professionals in here who confirmed all the issues. Section 8 has done a mold inspection but they do have the ability to test for black mold so they have given the landlord a free pass and just gave him another $100/month increase which is illegal because I am now paying $100/month more than any other tenants. They have allowed 2 landlords to commingle electric and refused to help when the electric co would not come out until the building inspector came and vice versa. Are they responsible for assisting tenants in cases like these and can I sue them for this behavior?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Susan

      I wish I could help, but this seem like a local matter. The Section 8 program is governed at the local level, and I have no idea what local laws Cape Cod has put into place.

      You’re best bet is to talk to a local attorney who specializes in landlord-tenant law, and hopefully Section 8, to see if they are falling short on their responsibilities. If you don’t have a local attorney, try using to find one. I’ve had a lot of luck with their site.

  • Melanie

    As a boyfriend and I filled out the applications for approval in an apartment complex in MA. I was the one who returned the applications, he was not able to come that day. The approval went through and the lease was drawn up, but only I was able to sign, his lines are empty. This was less than 24 hours ago. Is this lease legally binding or can we back out? The lease is not set to begin until 3/29/2015

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Melanie,

      Typically the way contracts work is that a contract is not “ratified” until all parties sign it. If your boyfriend was listing on the lease, but it doesn’t have his signature, then I wouldn’t imaging that the contract is complete yet.

      However, that might not stop them from pursuing you for the rent, losing your deposit, or even turning it over to a collections agency – causing you years of grief and clean up.

      If you want to back out, you’re going to have to talk with your landlord anyway. If they are resistant, you should consult a lawyer before putting up a fight.

  • Amy

    Hi Lucas,

    My roommate and I have been having a rough time with management. The windows, walls and doorway to the bedroom has been leaking with water the past couple of days. The management office says the leak is because snow is melting and that there’s nothing they can do. this doesn’t make any sense to us because we don’t even live on the top floor of the apartment. I don’t know how to communicate to my landlord because all communication goes to management, even our monthly rent money. What actions should I take to get this problem fixed? Our apartment is starting to smell like mold and I’m concerned about Lead poisoning because our apartment was built be for 1978. I would love to break the lease early, but I have no knowledge on the steps to do that or the consequences from breaking a lease early. What actions should my roommate and I take? We are fed up with this place because this isn’t the first time we’ve had major issues with our apartment.


    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Amy

      If the unit is privately owned, you might be able to track down the owner using the public property tax records. Many counties put that info online. Even if the contact info isn’t listed, you can still use facebook to track down the owner once you have a name. If you get the owner involved, then the management company will start behaving properly. After all, they are allowing the unit to be damaged by not taking action.

      You can also contact your local county’s housing authority or code enforcement office and have them come inspect the unit. If the unit is uninhabitable, then the landlord/manager will have to move you to another similar unit or terminate the lease.

      If you want to simply terminate your lease, you’ll likely need help from a lawyer since the management company is unresponsive – and will likely ignore any such request.

  • Richard

    Hey Lucas,

    Was wondering from a landlord perspective, if there’s any difference on receiving a referral from the current tenant or getting a new tenant from a real estate broker? In the end, does the landlord just want someone new as quickly as possible? and at the there desired rent level? and that the source doesn’t matter?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Richard,

      In my opinion, I don’t really care where the tenant comes from. However, there are benefits of to getting a referral from an existing tenant who is moving out. Chances are good that the old and new tenants are friends, and the old tenants would want to clean the property very well before moving out – because their friends are moving in.

      In the end, the most important things are to reduce vacancy and get the desired rent. I’ll take whichever tenant can move-in closer to the date that I need them too – all other things considered equal.

  • Georgios Papachristoudis

    Hi there,

    I have a question regarding the period that you have to notify the landlord in advance before you vacate. More specifically, my lease ends on March 31, I notified my landlord that I would leave 42 days prior to the end of the lease. However, he asks me to pay him the full month of April since the contract was saying that we should give 60 days notice. Is this legally sound?
    According to state law, if you are tenant at-will (which doesn’t apply in my case), you should only give a 30-day notice , Ch. 186, S. 12 ( Is there a corresponding state law section for tenants at lease? Again, I am not trying to break my lease, I just gave a notification of 42 (rather than 60) days in advance.

    Thank you in advance for any help.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Georgios,

      Generally speaking, no notice is needed as the lease simply expires at the end of the fixed term.

      However, that doesn’t prevent you from agreeing to a specific amount of required notice in the lease. If you lease says you must give 60 days from the date rent is due, then if your rent is due on the first of the month, then your rent responsibility would end 60 days from the next 1st. In your case, if you gave notice on Feb 15, then it would be 60 days from March 1 – assuming rent is due on the 1st.

      If your lease only says “60 days”, then you would be responsible for 60 days of rent from the date you gave notice. In this case, the 60 days would start on Feb 15 and end on April 15.

      If the landlord is able to find a replacement tenant before your 60 days is up, but after your lease expires, then you would be released from your responsibility.

      Basically, you have to do whatever your lease says. Sorry that’s not better news for you.

      If you want a legal opinion on the matter, you should talk to an attorney – which I am not. This isn’t legal advice, but rather just my opinion as an experienced landlord.

  • Stacy Bennett

    Hi Lucas,

    I recently received a 209A against a former roommate, however the former roommate went to the landlord and told him about the situation and now the landlord won’t discuss the apartment with me. He threatens to raise rent, do renovations, prevent me from finding new roommates so I can afford the apartment etc. What are my options as I’m trying to be transparent with my landlord but it has become difficult. I have been paying the landlord directly as a monthly tenant.

  • Lisa

    What are reasonable requests from a landlord to show a winter rental to prospective vacation renters? How many times per week? Is 24 or 48 hrs. notice most common? What demands can the landlord place on the tenant to have the apt. ready to show? Scrubbing mold from a shower? Removing extra personal belongings? Hiring a weekly cleaning person (at tenants expense and not to be deducted from security)?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Lisa,

      A landlord is allowed to show the property to other prospective tenants, as long as it doesn’t interfere with your right to quiet enjoyment. (MGL c.186 § 15B(1)(a))

      Quiet enjoyment is a funny thing because there is no set definition. Each party has to give a little. The landlord is allowed to enter the premises to conduct business, but must be reasonable about it and not do it in a way that interferes with the tenant’s rights to enjoy the property.

      As for the demands, they would have to be in the lease. A tenant is not responsible for ensuring a pristine condition for each showing. However, if the lease mandates that the tenant is to keep the shower clean from mold, then the landlord has the right to enforce it. If the tenant fails to keep up the lease, the landlord could terminate it, or hire mades at the tenant’s expense. If the tenant refuses to pay for it, then the security deposit could be used. But…. only if that requirement is in the lease.

      With that said, it’s always in the tenants best interest to clean up a little before each showing. The better it looks, the greater the chance of someone else renting it, and therefore, the landlord won’t have to bring as many potential tenants by.

      I hope that helps. Keep in mind, that’s just my opinion, and I’m not a lawyer, nor is this legal advice.

  • Pat

    My daughter at school needs an apt. starting 9/15. We found an apt., paid the realtor’s fee and first month. Within a few days we changed our minds..much due to being misinformed. I spoke with the landlord, a large financial institution and they said I could do a lease break. We had to write one sentence requesting this and we would have a penalty fee of 1/2 months rent and the apartment would be re-listed. If it didn’t rent I would be financially responsible. We found a new tenant. The landlord took the apartment off the market, a new lease was signed and one month’s rent was collected from the new tenant for 9/15. I asked about my 1/2 month refund and they replied that I won’t receive anything until the new tenant has occupied the apartment. In addition, they now tell me that even though there is a new lease signed, I am responsible for the entire year if this tenant backs out. Isn’t my lease void once a new one is signed? This isn’t a sublet.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Pat

      You could certainly make a strong argument that once a new lease is signed, then your’s is void. If the new tenant backs out, then he/she has to pay until a new tenant is found – rather than you.

      It sounds like the PM just wants to ensure multiple safety nets, even though it’s not really correct. If there’s a disagreement, you could always hash it out in small claims court.

  • Lucy K.


    I don’t understand how the 30 day notice and the last month rent work in tandem. I am on a month to month lease. I already paid for the last month’s rent when I moved in. I have paid for May’s rent also. So right now, I have paid for May 1st – May 31st + “last month”. Now let’s say on May 4th, the landlord says that s/he wants me to move within 30 days. So I have already paid for all of May and all of June (June being the “last month”). Does this mean I would have to move out on June 3rd (or 2nd, whichever is 30 days), even though I have paid for the entire month of June. Will the landlord just keep the entire month’s rent? Should I move out on May 31st and ask for the last month’s rent back? Basically, I don’t understand how the 30 days notice works if I have already paid for the last month. Shouldn’t I be allowed to live until the “last month” is over?

    Thank you

    • Lucy K.

      Hello again Lucas,

      On a separate but related note, the landlord wants to sell the house that I am renting from him/her. If the landlord wants to take pictures (inside and/or outside) of the property, is s/he legally allowed to? They want to take pictures for the real estate agent (I’m assuming for their website/flyers). Would that fall under inspection/showing or does ‘showing’ mean to show the house to a prospective buyer only in person rather than through pictures?

      Thank you.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Lucy,

      The last month’s rent and the 30 day notice are completely separate. You still have to move out by the last day of the lease (or notice period). If you end up over-paying, then the landlord should refund you any excessive rent paid past the 30 day notice.

      In your case, I would expect you to get a refund from June 3-30.

      A landlord is allowed to take pictures of the property/dwelling. After all, it’s their property and it’s a legitimate business reason. They should be allowed to take pictures of every room, and even the closets. But they shouldn’t be looking in your cabinets, drawers, or taking close-up pictures of your stuff.

      They still should give proper notice so that you have time to prepare for their arrive. Meaning, you should be granted some time to move stuff around and put away anything that you don’t want in the pictures. Usually, Real estate agents will post pictures online, and then buyers will still come by to see the property in person. Wouldn’t you do the same if you were considering a purchase?

      I hope that helps. Please know that I’m not a lawyer, nor is this legal advice.

  • Jayne Carpenter

    Hi, Here are my questions,we live in Massachusetts, we gave our tenants notice to vacate (more than the 30 days required)by the first of April but they didn’t leave until April 6th. Because they were not out by the first are we entitled to keep one months rent from the security deposit? Also, after going thru the apartment,the stove was left quite dirty and the oven door was broken, we will be replacing it. Are they responsible for the cost? Can this be deducted from the security deposit? Because of bleach stains on a wall to wall rug and stains we decided it was time to replace the flooring through out the apartment . The rugs were not in perfect condition when they took over( they were there for about 2 1/2 yrs)but the bleach stains determined our decision. Are they responsible for all of the cost? It was all wall to wall rugs but the stains were in a hall way. Thank you in advance for you advice.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Jayne,

      Generally speaking, the security deposit can only be used for actual damages. If you had a new tenant who couldn’t move in until the 7th because they stayed late, then you could certainly deduct the cost of the hotel that you had to provide the new tenant. But if you didn’t have a new tenant lined up, then I think you would only be able to withhold 6 days of rent. Remember, you have to have an actual loss associated with any money you withhold.

      If they were responsible for cleaning, then you could certainly withhold the cleaning expense from the deposit. As for the carpet, you’d only be able to withhold a portion of the cost to replace it – basically the useful years that they stole from it’s life. Here’s a podcast episode that I did on it:

      I hope that helps! Just as a disclaimer, please don’t take this as legal advice.

  • Leo

    Hi Lucas,

    Just wanted your take on a situation. My fiance and I were displaced due to a fire in the next apartment in our condo complex (big fire, >30 units burned out) and much of furniture suffered smoke damage. We have taken salvagable items and left the rest, after waiting a month for the strucutre to be deemed safe to move. The security deposit has been returned to us. The landlord is demanding we return to remove the damaged items. There is no dumpster available for us discard our belongings. I told him under normal circumstances, we would clear and clean the apt. He said he will seek professionals and send us a bill. Your thoughts?

    Thanks and best,

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Leo,

      I tend to agree with your landlord in this situation. I’m sorry your belongings were damaged, but they are still your belongings. Just because you don’t want them anymore doesn’t mean you don’t own them. Hopefully you had renter’s insurance which compensated you for the losses.

      I don’t see why the landlord would have to provide you with a dumpster, since you must take full responsibility for the removal. If he has to remove the items for you, then I 100% agree that you should foot the bill.

      That’s just my 2 cents – please know I’m not a lawyer, nor is this legal advice.

  • George

    Hi Lucas, I put a $500 deposit on an apt but don’t take possession until Aug 15. I signed a one-page lease addendum with a large company building the complex for what I owe as of Aug 15, first, last, pro-rated 1/2 month. They also signed. This is new construction and is supposed to be ready by move-in date. I’ve asked to sign the new lease now before I give 60-day notice to my current landlord. I was told MA state law prevents signing the lease this far out that I can sign <1 week before move-in. This seems reasonable (neither party gets stuck if I change my mind before then) and unreasonable (what is binding them to rent to me besides the single co-signed page?) at the same time. The rental company assures me I have an apt and not to worry. Should I be worried? Thanks, Jim

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi George,

      I’m not a lawyer, but I’ve never heard of a law that says you must sign a lease within a week of move-in, but no earlier than that.

      Whenever folks tell me “it’s law”… I just say “okay, great, show me”. Usually they can’t, because they made it up – or it’s a rumor.

      But hey, if that timeline works for you, then more power to you! It’s also a benefit to you, just in case they don’t deliver on time. However, I bet you’ll have a very hard time getting your money back if you back – despite not signing a lease.

      To me, it just sounds like the building company doesn’t want to be tied down. Your lease is the least of their worries. They have an apartment to build and a deadline to hit, but if they don’t hit it, or the county shuts them down, or a building inspector delays them by 6 months, they don’t have any obligation to you. If I were you, I wouldn’t necessarily be worried, but I also wouldn’t expect them to hit their deadline. Make sure you have a place to stay in case they don’t delivery, and start thinking about your plan if they get delayed by 1, 3, 6 or even 12 months.

      Good luck to you. I hope it works out.

      • George

        Hi Lucas, thanks for your reply. Having read it, you may be correct, that they are snowing me. Or, I hadn’t thought about the fact that it is new construction and it’s possible in that limited circumstance they aren’t able to formally lease units not yet built. I can envision builders doing that, and as you said, not having a building open on time. It just seems odd to me that they would claim “state law” for such a thing if it weren’t. George

        • Lucas Hall

          It’s also possible that there is a law that they can’t sign a lease to a property that hasn’t officially been recognized by the county government (i.e. passed all inspections and given an address).

  • michelle

    As a renter… I am a month to month tenant. my landlords are trying to sell the house in which i rent an apartment. the wife came to me yesterday and said the people who have looked at the house want to live in the apartment that i am in and they gave me a 30 day notice to quit. are there any laws to protect us from this.

  • Iliana

    Hello Lucas, I am a month to month renter too since 9 years ago. I only signed a lease on my first year. The landlord was kick out his house for domestic violence and now he is living in the basement. He told me to start to look for a new place because he want my apartment and need place to live. Could he evict me just for that reason? I am willing to leave the apartment this year but not until the end of the year when I have the money to move out. Last year, I discovered I have been paying the electricity for the basement for the last 10 years where he maintains a washer, dryer that he uses often, plus a refrigerator and others appliances. He has also tried to avoid taxes by saying he lives on the apartment I rent. Do you thing those incident could help me to keep the apartment until I am ready to leave, in case we go to court? This guy is very impolite and angry, and we feel scare. What should I do if he continues asking me to leave? Thanks in advance for your feedback.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Iliana,

      Generally speaking, no, a landlord can’t terminate a fixed-term lease because he wants to occupy the dwelling. However, that’s not what this is about.

      You’d have to check your old lease from 9 years ago to determine if it is an auto-renewing lease for a yearly term, or if it doesn’t auto-renew. If it doesn’t auto-renew for a year at a time, then your current tenancy is likely a month-to-month. In that case, a landlord can terminate a MTM with a month’s notice – for any reason. (MGL c.186 § 12)

      So, your rights as a tenant really depend on what type of lease you have. I hope that helps. Please know that I’m not a lawyer, nor is this legal advice.

  • Jerry Peters

    I am a homeowner who lives downstairs and rents out the upstairs unit of my home. Are there special laws or exceptions to laws that are granted to owner-occupied rental units? I am having a hard time finding a resource for owner-occupied landlord info. Thanks.


    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Jerry

      Some states have different rules for live-in landlord situations. But I’m not sure about Massachusetts. Links to all the statutes can be found above, or a local landlord-tenant attorney would know for sure. Good luck to you!

  • Harvey


    My landlord raised my rent 35% this year. With 60 days notice. Is there any laws that prohibit such a substantial move ? I live in a building in Boston with about 25 other units and everyone is in the same boat of 35-50% increases. Any advice would be much appreciated.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Harvey

      At the state level, I couldn’t find any statutes that regulate rent increase amounts, however, I’m not a lawyer or legal expert. You may want to check with the city of Boston, especially if there is a rent control program where you live. Good luck.

  • Christine S

    Hi I’m a renter and have had problems with the locks and keys. After getting groceries last week I found keys in the street that looked like mine. I assumed they belonged to someone in my building. After writing a note I decided to try (out of paranoia) and see if the keys opened my doors. And they did. So these random keys found in the middle of the street, opened up my apartment. I’ve never made a copy so I didn’t know whose they could be. Called my landlord she said it was no big deal, that I was overreacting and that it could be the handyman, the realtor or someone else, SHE HAD NO IDEA AND THOUGHT IT WASN’T A BIG DEAL. She refused to change the locks. She said maybe someone gave keys to someone in my building. I asked them and they said no and I said would they like if I had keys to their apartment in case of emergency, of course they said no and that’s exactly how I felt. What are the laws or rules with keys and locks to know that I am safe from random people she gives MY keys to

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Christine,

      Generally speaking, a tenant has exclusive rights to a property, with the exception of the landlord/manager, or their agents that are necessary to perform work. It’s common for a on-site employee to have keys to make repairs. But a random handyman really shouldn’t have keys unless they are highly trusted by the landlord, and even then, the landlord could be held responsible if anything happened. If a key goes missing, the logical thing to do is to re-key all the locks. To the best of my research, I haven’t found a statute that regulates lock changes, but you might want to check with your local housing authority.

      If you think that there is a missing key, you could always hire and pay for a locksmith yourself, and then give your landlord a copy of the new keys. I don’t suggest you change any hardware, but rather just have the locks rekeyed. However, it would be wise to get permission to do this first.

      I hope that helps. Please know that I’m not a lawyer, nor is this legal advice.

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