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green and white title graphic "Navigating Landlord Compliance in Boston"
March 20, 2024

Navigating Landlord Compliance in Boston

Landlords hold great responsibility for the properties they own. To protect your rights and avoid any legal trouble, there are various compliances to follow. 

What is landlord compliance? 

Landlord compliance is ensuring that the owner of the property and the property itself is meeting all rules and guidelines. These compliances (or rules) include how you operate with tenants and follow property codes.

Many people consider Massachusetts to be a landlord-friendly state because it does not enforce rent control policies. However, landlords have obligations in Massachusetts to uphold with a focus on landlord-tenant law, safety regulations, and more. 

Know Your Rights as a Landlord 

It’s important to review your rights as a landlord so you don’t put yourself or your potential tenant at risk. For landlords specifically, your rights and compliances deal with the following areas:

  • Leases/Rental Agreements
  • Payment (Security Deposits and Last Month’s Rent)
  • Livable Property Conditions
  • Eviction 

Each of these factors brings potential risks if not followed correctly. Learn more about how to ensure you’re following these laws. 

Rental Agreement Laws 

You’ve come to the moment where a tenant is ready to sign a lease. In this agreement, there is a clear understanding in writing that the lease or rental agreement will last for a specific period. During this time, the rent cost established from the signing of the lease cannot be changed. Also, a tenant cannot leave or be evicted unless both parties have come to a mutual legal understanding.  

Addendums

In special circumstances, policies under the rental agreement laws can change. For example, in cases regarding dangerous situations where a tenant in the household is a victim of domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, or stalking, the tenant can terminate the lease. The tenant needs a written notification for this termination to move forward.  

Payment Laws 

A landlord will ask a tenant for only these four payments up front: 

  • First month’s rent
  • Security deposit 
  • Last month’s rent 
  • Cost of a new lock and key 

Security deposits for a property need to be deposited into a Massachusetts bank account that collects interest. Your job as a landlord is to provide the tenant with all the information on the bank holding the security deposit from the name, address, and account number. You will need to pay the interest from that deposit back to the tenant or deduct it from future rent. 

When the lease ends, the landlord will return the security deposit plus interest within 30 days. Of course, this depends on how the tenant leaves the apartment condition-wise. If there are damages, you have the right to take money from the security deposit or expect the tenant to repair those damages. In these cases where you keep all or some of the security deposit, you need to provide a written description as evidence of the damage done. 

In regard to last month’s rent, you must provide the receipt of the payment to the tenant. When the lease ends (at the end of the year) the tenant should receive interest earned from the final month’s rent. 

Property Living Condition Laws

A landlord must ensure that the rental property meets all compliances regarding living conditions. As inspections take place, individuals will look at the following checklist of the property in case of violation.

  • Kitchens
  • Bathrooms 
  • Bedrooms
  • Ceilings & floors 
  • Doors 
  • Possible insect infestation 
  • Exits
  • Windows
  • Common areas
  • Smoke Detectors 
  • House identification
  • Posting of building  

State Sanitary Code

The Massachusetts State Sanitary Code provides legal information on what makes a property habitable. A tenant can come to you as a landlord with any concerns about violations of the code within their living space. If you do not take action or do not respond to those complaints, a code enforcement officer will get involved. At Thayer Associates, we can help you navigate these potential violations by providing resources for maintenance repair

Addendums

With properties built before 1978, the landlord and tenant are required to sign the Tenant Lead Law Notification and Tenant Certification. This will inform the tenant of any possible risks of lead poisoning or lead-based paint. The landlord must also give any disclosures about lead inspection. 

Eviction 

A landlord does not have the right to evict a tenant without a court ruling. If there is a reason for this eviction, the landlord must follow a specific protocol. If there is a disagreement between a tenant or landlord, both can go through the services of the Attorney General’s Office. You can find more resources on the eviction process on Mass.gov.  

Landlord compliance and laws in Boston can be a confusing and complex process. However, by knowing your rights and responsibilities, you can prevent the risk of any legal trouble.

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