This is a summary of Massachusetts Landlord-Tenant laws that apply to residential (non-commercial) rentals. These references were compiled from the Massachusetts General Law, the Code of Massachusetts Regulations, and various online sources to serve as a reference and for people wanting to learn about Massachusetts landlord-tenant laws, Massachusetts eviction laws, and Massachusetts renters’ rights.
However, this guide is not comprehensive and PayRent does not warrant the accuracy of this information. Statutes can change any time the state legislature passes a new law. Additionally, counties and cities may have different regulations. Given its limitations, this guide is not an adequate substitute for legal advice from a knowledgeable lawyer. If you are dealing with a landlord-tenant issue, you seek guidance from a qualified attorney. If you need help finding an attorney, we’ve included a list of attorney referral services in this guide.
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Rules and Regulations Governing Massachusetts Landlord-Tenant Laws
- Massachusetts General Law c.186 – Estates for Years and At-Will / Landlord and Tenant Law
- Massachusetts General Law c.151 s.4 – Fair Housing Laws
- Massachusetts General Law c.218 s.21-28 – District Courts / Small Claims
- Massachusetts General Law c.239 – Summary Process for Possession of Land
- 105 CMR 410 – Minimum Standards of Fitness for Human Habitation
- 940 CMR 3.17 – Landlord and Tenant
Massachusetts Lease Terms Provisions
- What is the maximum allowable security deposit?
The security deposit cannot exceed one month’s rent. (MGL c.186 § 15B(1)(b)(iii))
- Are security deposits required to earn interest?
Yes. If the tenancy lasts for over a year, the landlord must pay either the amount of interest paid by the bank on the deposit or if the landlord doesn’t deposit the security deposit in a bank, 5% interest annually. (MGL c.186 § 15B(3)(b))
- Do landlords need to store security deposits in a separate bank account?
Yes. Security deposits cannot be commingled with the landlord’s assets. (MGL c.186 § 15B(1)(e))
- Are non-refundable fees, such as pet fees, prohibited?
Yes. Landlords cannot charge non-refundable fees in Massachusetts. (MGL c.186 § 15B(1)(b))
- How long do landlords have to return security deposits?
30 days. (MGL c.186 § 15B(4))
- Can landlords withhold security deposits?
Yes. Landlords can use the deposit to cover any unpaid rent or water charges, any unpaid increase in real estate taxes, and to repair any damage caused by the tenant or any person under the tenant’s control or on the premises with the tenant’s consent, reasonable wear and tear excluded. (MGL c.186 § 15B(4))
- Are landlords required to itemize damages and fees deducted from security deposits?
Yes. Landlords must provide an itemized list of damages, sworn to by the landlord or his agent under pains and penalties of perjury, itemizing in precise detail the nature of the damage and of the repairs necessary to correct such damage, and written evidence, such as estimates, bills, invoices or receipts, indicating the actual or estimated cost. (MGL c.186 § 15B(4)(iii))
- Do landlords have to issue receipts upon receiving security deposits?
Yes. Landlords or their agents must give tenants receipts indicating the amount of the security deposit, the name of the person receiving it and, in the case of an agent, the name of the landlord, the date, and a description of the premises leased or rented. (MGL c.186 § 15B(2)(b)); (MGL c.186 § 15B(3)(a))
- Are there any specific requirements for record-keeping for deposit withholdings?
Yes. Landlords must provide written evidence, such as estimates, bills, invoices or receipts, indicating the actual or estimated cost of any repairs for which part of the security deposit was withheld. (MGL c.186 § 15B(4)(iii))
- What happens when a landlord does not return a security deposit within the required timeframe?
The tenant shall be awarded damages in an amount equal to three times the amount of the security deposit withheld plus interest at the rate of five percent from the date when such payment became due, together with court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees. (MGL c.186 § 15B(7))
- Is there a cap on how much landlords can charge for rent? (rent control)
No. There are no rent control laws in Massachusetts.
- Does rent need to be paid using a certain method of payment?
No. There is no Massachusetts law requiring a certain payment method for rent.
- Can landlords charge late fees when rent is late?
Yes. Massachusetts permits late fees. (MGL c.186 § 15B(1)(c))
- Do landlords have to allow for a grace period for paying rent before charging late fees?
Yes. Landlords must wait 30 days before charging any late fees. (MGL c.186 § 15B(1)(c))
- Can landlords charge application fees?
No. Landlords cannot charge application fees. (MGL c.186 § 15B(1)(b))
Massachusetts Landlord-Tenant Relations
- Are landlords required to provide tenants with notice of rent increases between lease terms?
No. There is no Massachusetts law requiring landlords to provide tenants with notice of rent increases between lease terms. However, landlords cannot raise your rent in the middle of your lease.
- Are landlords required to provide tenants with notice of pesticide use on the property?
No. There is no Massachusetts law requiring landlords to provide tenants with notice of pesticide use on the rental property.
- What notice is required to terminate a fixed-end lease?
No notice is required — the lease ends on the date stated in the lease.
- What notice is required to terminate a tenancy at will?
When rent is payable at periods over 3 months, 3 months notice is required. When rent is payable at periods less than three months, the time of notice required is the greater of the interval between payments or 30 days. (MGL c.186 § 12)
- Is notice of the date and time of the move out inspection required?
There is no statute in Massachusetts law covering this issue.
- When can landlords enter the rental premises with notice?
- To inspect the premises.
- To make repairs.
- To show the unit to prospective purchasers, mortgagees, or agents.
- To inspect the premises within the last 30 days of the tenancy to determine the amount of damage to be deducted from the security deposit. (MGL c.186 § 15B(1)(a))
- What notice must a landlord give a tenant before entering the rental unit?
There is no Massachusetts law requiring landlords to give tenants notice of entry.
- When can landlords enter the rental premises without providing notice to their tenants?
- Under court order.
- If it appears that the tenant has abandoned the premises. (MGL c.186 § 15B(1)(a))
- Landlords must ensure the premises comply with the minimum standards of fitness for human habitation outlined in 105 CMR 410.
- There is no Massachusetts statute covering this issue.
Required Landlord Disclosures
- Within 15 days of a 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. (MGL c.186 § 21)
- 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.
Massachusetts Renters’ Rights
- What are Massachusetts renters’ rights if landlords breach their duties? (See Landlord’s Duties)
If a landlord’s failure to comply with the rental agreement or their legal duties materially affects health and safety, the renter may deliver a written notice to the landlord identifying the issue(s). If the landlord does not remedy the breach within 14 days of receiving notice, the lease will terminate. The entire security deposit must be refunded, and the tenant is also entitled to recover actual damages and reasonable attorney fees.
If a landlord’s failure to comply with the rental agreement or their legal duties materially affects health and safety, the renter may deliver a written notice to the landlord identifying the issue(s). If the landlord does not remedy the breach in 10 days of receiving notice, the lease will terminate on the notice specified in the notice. The termination date must be at least 20 days after receipt of the notice. The entire security deposit must be refunded, and the tenant is also entitled to recover injunctive relief and damages.
- Are tenants allowed to withhold rent for needed repairs or other breaches of their landlords’ duties?
Yes. When violations of the standards of fitness for human habitation may endanger or materially impair the health, safety, or well-being of a tenant, the tenant may give 14 days written notice to the landlord and, if the landlord does not remedy the issue, deduct their actual and reasonable cost of repair from the rent. (MGL c.111 § 127L)
- What are the protections for tenants against retaliation from their landlords for exercising their Massachusetts renter’s rights?
Massachusetts law prohibits landlords from terminating a tenancy, refusing to renew a lease, or raising the rent if the tenant has exercised a legal right, complained to a governmental agency, became a member of a tenant’s union or similar organization, or has withheld rent. (MGL c.239 § 2A)
Massachusetts Eviction Laws
- What are the reasons that landlords can evict tenants under Massachusetts eviction laws?
- What notice do Massachusetts eviction laws require that landlords provide tenants before starting the eviction process?
- For evictions based on non-payment of rent, the landlord must give a 14-day notice before starting the eviction process. If the tenant pays all past-due rent before the eviction hearing, the eviction process will be stopped. (MGL c.186 § 11)
- For evictions based on a violation of lease terms or illegal activity, landlords must give a 7-day notice of termination of the lease before starting the eviction process. Landlords do not have to permit the tenant to cure these types of breaches. (MGL c.186 § 17)
- For evictions based on a holdover tenancy, landlords must provide the notice required to end the tenancy. If the tenant remains on the rental property after the termination date, the landlord can begin the eviction process without providing additional notice. (MGL c.186 § 13)
- Do Massachusetts eviction laws allow landlords to use “self-help eviction” methods, such as locking a tenant out of the rental unit or shutting off the utilities?
No. If a landlord evicts a tenant using self-help methods, the tenant can choose to recover possession or terminate the lease. Tenants can recover the greater of three months’ rent or three times the damages sustained the cost of the suit and reasonable attorney’s fees. (MGL c.186 § 15F)
COVID-19 Changes to Massachusetts Landlord-Tenant Laws
- The CDC has passed a national eviction ban through December 31, 2020, that prohibits landlords from evicting tenants who meet the following criteria for nonpayment:
- Have used their best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent.
- Expect to earn no more than $99,000 in annual income for Calendar Year 2020 (or no more than $198,000 if filing a joint tax return).
- Are unable to pay their full rent or make a full housing payment due to substantial loss of income or employment, or extraordinary medical bills.
- If evicted, will have no other housing options.
- The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act requires landlords to provide a 30-day notice to tenants before eviction. However, the CARES Act only applies to properties that are supported by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), or the United States Treasury (Low Income Housing Tax Credit), and properties with federally-backed mortgages, such as FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac.
- Massachusetts passed an emergency law to stop evictions and foreclosures during the COVID-19 state of emergency, which is in effect until October 17, 2020.
- Massachusetts Small Claims Court Limits
- Massachusetts Small Claims Forms
- Massachusetts Small Claims Information
- Massachusetts Law About Small Claims
- Small Claims Advisory Service
- Massachusetts Judicial Branch
- Massachusetts District Courts by County
- Massachusetts Attorney General
- MassLegalServices.org – Find Legal Aid
- MassLegalHelp.org – Housing
- MassLegalHelp.org – Tenants’ Rights in Massachusetts: Private Housing
- Massachusetts Consumer Guide to Tenant Rights and Responsibilities
- Evictions – Tenants’ Rights in Massachusetts
- Mobile Homes – Tenant’s Rights in Massachusetts
- Good Neighbors Handbook – A Guide for Boston Landlords & Tenants
Attorney Referral Services
Realtor and Landlord-Tenant Associations
- Massachusetts Law about Landlord and Tenant
- Massachusetts Law Guide Landlord-Tenant
- Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD)
- MIT Guide to Discrimination and Tenant’s Rights
- Massachusetts Housing Code Checklist
- Massachusetts Division of Insurance
- A Massachusetts Guide to Insurance for Your Home and Ways to Help Reduce Your Insurance Premiums
- A Massachusetts Guide to Understanding the Insurance Policy Covering Your Home
- Massachusetts Consumer Guide to Tenant Rights and Responsibilities
- Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation
- Massachusetts Alliance of HUD Tenants
- Massachusetts Union of Public Housing Tenants’
- Massachusetts Housing Consumer Education Centers
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Massachusetts
- Massachusetts Board of Registration of Real Estate Brokers & Salespersons
- Massachusetts Association of REALTORS
- Boston Tenant Coalition
- Fair Housing Counsel of Greater Boston
- Greater Boston Real Estate Board
- Greater Boston Association of Realtors