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Massachusetts Tenant Rights

Massachusetts Tenant Rights

Massachusetts Tenant Rights: Understanding Your Rights as a Renter

The right to housing is a fundamental human right that should be enjoyed by everyone. Unfortunately, the quality of housing, affordability, and fairness of the landlord-tenant relationship has been a hot-button issue across the United States and Massachusetts is no exception. In an effort to ensure tenants have adequate protection and enjoy certain rights, the state of Massachusetts has established several laws and regulations that seek to balance the interests of landlords with the needs of tenants. This article will explore Massachusetts tenant rights and provide some updated information on the topic by utilizing government resources.

Exercising Your Right to a Safe and Decent Home

Massachusetts law requires landlords to provide a safe and decent home for their tenants, which includes ensuring that the homes are structurally sound, vermin-free, and that water and heating systems are in good working condition. According to the Massachusetts State Sanitary Code, landlords must also ensure that units have sufficient ventilation, adequate lighting, and a reliable supply of electricity. Landlords are also required to maintain common areas, such as hallways and staircases, and ensure that they are clean and safe.

If landlords fail to meet the minimum standards set by state law, tenants have the right to file a complaint with the state or local Board of Health. The Board of Health then has to investigate and inspect the property for any violations, and if found, issue a violation order to the landlord. In cases where landlords fail to comply with the violation order, they may face fines, and in extreme cases, legal action.

Rent Increases and Security Deposits

While Massachusetts landlords can charge whatever rent they deem acceptable initially, they cannot increase the rent unless the lease agreement allows for it. Tenants must be given notice of the increase at least 30 days before it takes effect. Massachusetts doesn’t have rent control in place, however, some municipalities have implemented their own rental rules based on local legislation.

New tenants can be required to pay security deposits, but the amount of the deposit can’t be greater than the first month’s rent. To ensure the security deposit is refunded at the end of the lease period, tenants are required to give notice to the landlord of any damages, deficiencies or items needing repair following an inspection. The landlord is required to inspect and provide a list of any damages that need to be repaired or replaced as well as the estimated cost of any repairs.


Evictions in Massachusetts are strictly governed by laws and tenants have certain protections that must be followed. In Massachusetts, landlords may evict tenants for reasons of non-payment, violating the lease agreement, and failure to vacate the premise at the end of the lease term. However, if a tenant believes the eviction was based on discrimination (such as age, nationality, family status, or religion), they may challenge the eviction in court.

The eviction process starts with the landlord serving a notice to quit on the tenant. Typically, the notice to quit will provide the tenant with a deadline by which they need to vacate the property. If the tenant fails to comply, the landlord may start eviction proceedings in court. It’s important for tenants facing eviction to seek legal assistance.

Discrimination and Fair Housing

Since the passing of the Federal Fair Housing Act of 1968, landlords are legally prohibited from discriminating against tenants based on their race, gender, religion, nationality, and sex. Massachusetts has some of the strictest anti-discrimination laws in the country, extending the list of characteristics that landlords can’t use to deny tenancy. It’s worth noting that Massachusetts law also protects tenants who may be subjected to reprisals for exercising their rights as renters such as reporting health and safety concerns, or filing a complaint to the proper authorities.

If a tenant believes that a landlord has discriminated against them, they can file a complaint with the State’s Commission Against Discrimination, which regulates and enforces anti-discrimination laws. Other housing related complaints can be filed with the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation.


Living in a home owned by someone else is a common scenario for people across Massachusetts, however, many tenants are unaware of the full extent of their legal rights and protections with regards to their living conditions and overall tenancy. What’s clear is that Massachusetts tenant rights offer valuable protections that tenants shouldn’t hesitate to use if the occasion demands it. Tenants have the right to be treated fairly and to live in a safe and decent home, free from discrimination so it’s always wise to stay informed. If tenants ever find themselves in a situation that seems unfair, they shouldn’t hesitate to seek legal advice and know that they have the backing of the law.

The following article answers some of your basic questions concerning Massachusetts Tenant Rights:

Massachusetts Tenant Rights: Exclusive Right to Possess the Rental Space

Is my Landlord Allowed to lock me out of the apartment without a court order?

No. According to Massachusetts tenant rights, a landlord may not—for any reason—lock you out of your apartment. Only a court is allowed to evict you from your rental space.

Can my Landlord Enter the Rental Property Without My Permission?

According to Massachusetts tenant rights, your landlord is not allowed to enter your apartment without permission; however, there are three exceptions that provide the landlord with unimpeded entrance. These reasons are: if the landlord secures a court order permitting entry; if the apartment appears abandoned; if there is a real emergency, such as a flood, fire etc.

Can I refuse to give my landlord permission to enter my rental space?

Massachusetts tenant rights state that with at least one day’s notice, you are required to allow your landlord entry to: make repairs; inspect the apartment; show the apartment to prospective realtors, buyers or tenants; inspect the rental space for damages within the last month of your tenancy

Am I Allowed—under MA tenant rights– to withhold rent if there is a problem with the rental space and I have to pay for repair costs?

Yes—according to MA tenant rights–you are allowed to withhold rent; however, it may be done only when specific conditions apply. You may withhold rent from your landlord if the Board of Health views certain conditions within your space as being unsafe or hazardous to the occupant’s health. In this situation, according to MA tenant rights, rent may be withheld if the landlord receives written notice of these violations and if he/she failed to repair the space in a timely manner. No matter the circumstance, you may only deduct a total of 4 months’ rent. Before paying for repairs, you should first speak with the landlord, and in more severe cases, a legal specialist.

Massachusetts Tenant Rights: The Right to Quiet Enjoyment of the Rental Space

According to MA tenant rights, a landlord is not allowed to interfere with your utility services, implement conditions that will endanger your safety and health or enter your apartment without your permission (as stated above).

If you exercise these—or any of your MA tenant rights—your landlord is not allowed to retaliate. Retaliation means: attempting to evict you, raising your rent and/or changing any terms of your tenancy. Massachusetts tenant rights—and state law—always give the tenant the benefit of the doubt. If your landlord partakes in any of these actions within 6 months of exercising your Massachusetts tenant rights, the law will instantly assume they are retaliatory in nature.

What Can I Do About Severe Problems in My Apartment?

According to Massachusetts tenant rights, you possess the right to a habitable and safe rental unit. Massachusetts tenant rights require that you be provided with hot water, working toilets and electricity. Windows and doors must be equipped with working locks. The Massachusetts sanitary code provides many other requirements that landlords must meet for maintaining and renting a rental unit. If conditions develop that interfere with your right to a safe and decent dwelling, the landlord is required—according to MA tenant rights—to act quickly to fix it.

If a problem arises, you should immediately notify your landlord. Depending on the severity of the issue, your landlord—according to MA tenant rights– is given a certain amount of time to resolve the issue. If you face an emergency, notify your landlord immediately and press him/her on the issue.

If your landlord refuses to alleviate the situation, you should contact a local housing inspector. This government official—in adherence with MA tenant rights–will offer a free housing inspection to assess the situation. If your apartment faces severe Sanitary Code Violations, an inspector can order your landlord to make repairs. If there is a serious problem, Massachusetts tenant rights states that a housing inspector must visit your rental space within 24 hours.

If the inspector agrees that the problems are significant, he/she will document this and send a repair order to your landlord. The landlord is then, based on MA tenant rights, required to fix the problems within 24 hours after receiving the order.

Other Important Massachusetts Tenant Rights:

• Tenants are required to receive 5% interest on their security deposit or the interest amount the account receives from the bank. Tenants are also entitled to interest on their last month’s rent. Tenants are also required by law to provide the tenant with a receipt upon payment. The landlord is required to place the money in an interest-bearing account and pay the interest to the tenant each year on the anniversary date of their tenancy or within one month of the lease termination

• Unless stated otherwise, MA Tenant Rights, landlords are required to pay heat, hot water, sewage services and electricity.

• If you have a written lease with your landlord and are being evicted for failure to pay rent, you do not have to leave the premises immediately. As a tenant, you are entitled to a written 30-day notice to vacate the rental unit. After these 30 days, the landlord may file for eviction proceedings with the housing court. Only a housing judge—according to Massachusetts tenant rights—can evict you from the rental space