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

  • jeffrey brotherton

    Interesting ideas – I am thankful for the info ! Does someone know where I might be able to find a sample IRS 8606 form to use ?

  • Steven

    Can a landlord limit the number of tenants in his/her 3 bed….Can he say, No more than 3 people?
    (water is separately metered)


  • Jonas

    Hello Lucas,
    this forum is very resourceful. Thank you for your participation.
    As a landlord in MA, if the tenant signs the lease but she still hasn’t moved in, and I as landlord haven’t sign the lease yet, because of disagreement with the deposit (which they are delaying in paying to reserve the property); can we walk out of this (not signed yet) agreement?

    • Leah McNeill

      While Lucas and this site are invaluable, in MA I would check with a legal source. I acted on some info I got from the site, and ended up in a nightmare beyond belief which ended up costing me about $15,000! Finally got rid of the tenant but it was a gruelling experience. The laws in MA favor tenants and from what I see, the landlord almost never wins.

  • MadameFifi

    I have a housemate whom I wish to move out. I have given her a 30 day notice to vacate, but am concerned that she will drag it out. Do I have any recourse as she is living in my home? Thank you.

  • Concerned in Fall River

    I have lived here at my current place for 13.5 months. No issues, never late on rent and just issue after issue with this place. Most recently this place and all other similar buildings were taken by the government and shut down. Due to drugs and I’m guessing health issues. This landlord bought them up made a few changes and now charges a ridiculous price for the units and moves anyone in. First off he charges a application fee and in Massachusetts you can’t from what I read. The apartments were infested with bed bugs of which they took a month to treat my apartment and no one else’s in this building. Not smart, they will return. He also now charges for parking spots if you want a guaranteed spot. please help

    • Jeremy

      Yes, landlords can pass the application fee along to the tenant in MA. But be careful here. The landlord can only charge the actual fees incurred for background, credit, eviction checks etc. The landlord cannot mark these up for a “profit.”

      It sounds like most of these issues would have been disclosed to you in the lease (ie. the amount of rent, charging fees for parking, etc.). if you were informed of these, and you signed the lease stating so, there’s not much you can do.

      I’m not an expert in bed bugs, but I do believe MA laws have a provision requiring landlords to address concerns about certain pest infestations. I don’t know if bed bugs fall into this category. A smart landlord would want to address this quickly in his best interest

      • Greg

        In MA a landlord cannot charge anything beyond 1st, last, security and a key deposit to move into a unit. They cannot charge a prospective tenant for any kind of fee for a background check.

  • Mary wilsey

    Can a tenant in MA terminate a lease with 60 days notice without penalty?

  • Donnakay Nault

    My landlord deposited my security deposit in a credit union. He failed to pay me interest on the last moths rent and security deposit for the five years that I resided in his unit. I have read the law and it states must be kept in a bank. A bank and a credit union aren’t exactly the same thing. I did read that some case law dating back to 2001 is out there somewhere addressing bank vs credit union. Have you heard of this?

  • Tina

    In a 1-yr lease in a condo that I rent. I’ve had to endure unbearable noise disturbances from my upstairs neighbors: heavy footsteps, dog barking and scratching the floor, furniture being dragged along their floor, etc. I can hear virtually every movement & conversation had upstairs. I’m awoken every day at 5 am or earlier as a result. I’ve spoken to my neighbors, complained to my landlord and management on numerous occasions, and have gotten the police involved as recommended by management. The officers agreed that the noises are loud due to lack of insulation. Aside from sending a letter to my neighbors, my landlord and management have been completely uninvolved and have left me to find solutions. Is this grounds to break a lease? TY

    • Leah

      Tina I am going through the exact same thing. But I am the landlord living on the first floor! I just wrote my tenant a letter stating due to excessive noise I will not be renewing her lease in August. If the noise does not improve, I will be forced to evict her. Quite frankly, I’m not sure if noise is grounds to evict or break the lease. I have a call into the leasing office (my tenant is sect 8) to find out. Look at your lease. Most likely there is a clause about noise. There is a clause in our lease about noise, but I’m not sure if I have grounds for eviction. At the very least, I would advise to start a paper trail proving that noise has been and continues to be a problem. If I hear back from the leasing office, I will let you know

      • Jeremy

        As an owner-occupied landlord, you have some additional sway when it comes to evictions related to “right to quiet enjoyment”. I do believe this would be allowable grounds for eviction so long as you have documented your attempts to remedy the situation and given adequate time for the tenant to make remedies.

  • Barb Hatch

    What are MA rules about a houseguest who won’t leave? Do they have the same rights as a tenant? About 3 weeks ago, I alllowed a 30 year old acquaintance and her 6 year old son to start staying with me, on a temporary basis. She has now used my address to sign her son up for school. No money has changed hands. Things are getting ugly, and I want her to leave. Do I have to give her any notice in order to get her to leave?

    • Jeremy

      This is where your lease comes in to play. Our standard lease outlines any guest occupying the premises for more than 72 hours in a calendar week is deemed to be “living” at the property. All persons over age 18 living in the property MUST be co-signed on the lease. Failure to do so could result in a termination of said lease.

  • Leah

    not sure but would love to know the answer if/when you get one.

  • marlene merrill

    I need help so bad if you can give me advice please. I let someone stay in a room in my house. Had a job when moved in. quit it, couldn’t hold down any other since. When I asked him for rent as he was behind, he didn’t want to talk about it. Told me to clean out a room, rent it, and get a job. Asked for rent again, he called police to try to get restraining order on me. IN MY OWN HOUSE!!! told them I was “harassing him”. I know he working now. leaves early same time. Just waved w-2’s in my face, said he’ll be out of here. How can I get him out of here earlier, or get back rent. I have been so nice to this 40 year old kid. thank you for any advice. xoxoxoxoxoxo. also I live in Ma,

  • Brian Walsh

    Moved out in November. Finally got my deposit back 3 days ago. I know after 30 days I’m entitled to 3 times my original deposit. What is the process to try and recover this extra $$ from my landlord? Who and where do I file acomplaint with, what’s the process, what would it cost me, is it even worth it to debate it or file a complaint? Could someone walk me through what I would need to do?

  • Norah

    Does the renter have the right to know how much is in your savings account and should that have an affect on how much rent is charged?

  • Ginge

    I have a final walkthrough with my landlord, who has been known to not be the most honest. They have told me that they need time after our walkthrough inspection to further review any potential damage before issuing our security deposit. I don’t trust that the condition we give it in will be upheld. Can someone please provide some advice on what I can do to protect myself?

  • Wayne Patnode

    I own and live in a 3 family. A single tenant, who is now a month to month tenant, has mental health issues that have become more and more of a problem over the past year. She is now a month to month tenant. She recently deliberately started a fire in her bedroom closet. Alerted by alarms, I put it out just as the fire dpt arrived. She admitted to the police that she was trying to burn the house down and was arrested. The court appointed psychologist declared her incompetent. She is due to appear back in court on 3/13. I am told, unless she is ordered to remain in the hospital, she will be allowed to return to her apartment and there is nothing I can do to stop her. I fear for the safety and property of myself and the other tenants.

  • Jean Uhia

    I am in the process of buying a condo. our lease is up for renewal on May 1,2017 and our rent was also raised to extra 25.00. which now would be over 1015.00 dollars a month. I have no problem paying the rent but I don’t want to renew lease just in case I find the condo I want. Would like to go month to month. But the Landlord wants to tack on an extra 100.00 a month to the rent while I am in the process of doing this move. I am 72 yrs old still work and my daughter is 55 yrs old and disabled. Can they do this???. I am a good tenant and lived here for at least 15 yrs. and my daughter for 5yrs.

    • Jeremy

      Yes they absolutely can. We charge a SIGNIFICANTLY increased rent if someone wants to convert the end of their lease to a month-to-month rental. This is to discourage people from doing so, not because we feel entitled to extra money for nothing. We want our tenants on leases.

  • John McMahan

    Hi I Live in a Duplex. My Neighbor Has removed a Fence In front Of the Building and Put it up in his side yard. I asked him about this and He Told Me His sister Who Lived There Years Before Had bought It and Put it Up. Is this Even Legal I would assume The landlord would Own The fence? My Landlord Is very old And I do not want To bother him Unless He Is the owner Of this fence.

    Please Reply Thank you , John

  • Paul Bigos jr

    Does any one know of a lawyer that only takes payment if we win a lawsuit type deal? My landlord rented us a kind of studio apartment with the promise of a kitchen for a year and we only had a bathroom sink for dishes for 7 months as of this month I started refusing to pay rent until they put in some sort of kitchen for us and now we received a 30 day eviction notice?

  • Sheryl

    Hi, my landlord just informed me he won’t be renewing my lease , because he wants to get the house fixed up so he can sell it.

    Been here for four years never late on my rent, my only problem is I live on the Cape and it’s gonna be hard to find a place in a months time.

    So if I keep paying my rent till I find a place, can he evict me !
    Any help would be greatly appreciated

    Thank you

  • Meni

    Any information on rent penalties for holdover tenants? For example, in NJ the rent penalty for holdover tenants can be “double rent”. I don’t see anything on this in MA.

  • mark

    My brother lives with my mom & let his girlfriend move in. She has been there approx. 6 months. brought her cats & personal belongings &receives mails there. She does not pay rent, but occasional supplies food with some sort of food subsidy she gets. She does not work. My mom wants her out as she is an alcoholic and is causing problems. My brother broke up with her as well. she left for a few days, my brother put her belongings in the driveway , said to pick it up. She told my mom she will be back & put her belongings back in the house & said my mom has no legal right to kick her out. She said that she will stay as long as she wants until my mom can LEGALLY evict her . My mom is 80 on a fixed income. Brother does not work & on disability

  • Dan

    I am interested in purchasing a 2-4 unit multifamily in MA. I am looking for the best source of current market rents. Do any boards, departments or angencies in any MA municipalities compile registries/databases on charged rents for currently occupied apartments?

  • Jennifer

    If a landlord rents to a tenant and months later her boyfriend moves in and is helping to pay rent does said boyfriend have any tenant rights if his name and signature are not on the lease agreement? What rights does the landlord, tenant and boyfriend have in this matter?

  • rosemary

    My aunts ex boyfriend moved out in October 2017. He has had multiple opportunities to remove the remainder of his belongings (a tv/couch/tv stand) over the last few months. He has refused to do so.
    What are her obligations regarding these items. Does she have to return them or store them until he decides he wants them?

  • Personal Violation

    The taking pictures of my professionally decorated space seems like a violation of my personal space. I feel extremely uncomfortable with my landlord broadcasting my professional decoration work of my space and personal items (expensive antiques) to the world. My landlord has pictures of our space from the previous owner. Can’t he just use those pictures? This puts my personal items and safety in jeopardy seeing that everyone will see the expensive items in my apt. Is there anything I can do?

    Thanks –

    Feeling Violated

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