Landlord-tenant relationships go back thousands of years. Time has shown us that in order to make these relationships successful, tenants and landlords must develop clear expectations and a clear understanding of each party's role and responsibility. Commonwealth of Massachusetts law is very specific in regards to tenant and landlord rights and responsibilities. Having a basic understanding of the Commonwealth's landlord-tenant law is the first step in building a successful landlord-tenant relationship. The following are a few major points for landlords and tenants to know and understand.
1. Landlords are required to disclose specific information to tenants.
This includes anyone that is authorized to act on his or her behalf as landlord. If a landlord collects a security deposit, they must do two things. First, they must provide tenants with a move-in checklist (commonly referred to as a move-in condition statement included in tenants' move-in packets). This must be completed by all tenants and submitted within 15 days of move in. Secondly, landlords must hold the security deposit in a separate interest-bearing account, specifically in a Massachusetts bank. Within 30 days of receiving your deposit, the landlord must give the tenant a receipt identifying the bank's name and address, account number, and amount of the deposit.
2. A lease agreement is a contract that both the Tenant and Landlord must adhere to.
Under this contract the tenant is required to pay their lease on time and follow any other stipulations of the contract. If the tenant fails to pay rent on time or break any other clause of the contract, the landlord may file for an eviction notice with the courts. However, the landlord is also subject to the terms of the lease, which includes the requirement of giving tenants 14 days' notice before they can file.
3. When the landlord wishes to enter the unit, they must give reasonable notice as well as access the unit at reasonable times.
Legitimate reasons for landlords to enter: Showing the apartment to prospective tenants or other interested parties, carrying out an inspection, if needed, facilitating repairs, or any emergency situation. Within 30 days of the end of tenancy, the landlord can make a final inspection to determine damages to be deducted from the security deposit. Finally, the landlord may enter the premises if the unit appears to be abandoned or the landlord receives a court order allowing them to enter. Tenants should make reasonable accommodations for any request from their landlords that fall under these categories.
4. Tenants have the right to withhold rent.
This holds true if they have made a written repair request/complaint that has not been addressed, have informed the landlord of the intent to withhold rent, and are not behind in rent when filing the complaint. These statements must be delivered to the landlord before the tenant withholds rent. Additionally, always be sure that to comply with state legal requirements provided the circumstances justify this action.
5. Tenants are entitled to a safe and habitable living environment.
This means landlords must ensure the following conditions are met: Clean and safe drinking water, as well as a hot water system are made available. The unit must have a heating system. Unless the lease agreement states otherwise, the landlord is responsible for the payment of heating. The landlord must provide a kitchen area including a sink, stove, and oven. Landlords are not required to provide a refrigerator, however if they do, they are required to maintain it.
They must ensure the unit remains free of pests such as cockroaches and rodents, and are also required to ensure that the unit remains structurally sound. Finally, the landlord is responsible for snow removal at every exit.
Taking the time to understand each party's rights and responsibilities is crucial for a successful landlord-tenant relationship. For all you prospective or current tenants out there, conducting a thorough pre-inspection with the checklist you are provided will go very far in ensuring a great rental experience. Additionally, whenever any issues arise, prompt and positive communication is key to solving almost any problem.
Do you now feel one step closer to becoming the most capable renter you can be? We sure do!
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