As hard as it is to believe, summer is about to end, meaning that Boston’s unofficial “moving day” is about to begin. With dozens of college and graduate students, young professionals, and other renters in the Boston area, the beginning of September is the busiest time of the year for moving. If you are one of the many who will be moving this week, here is some advice for moving. While this is aimed for those in Boston, this advice generally pertains to any landlord or tenant in Massachusetts.
Get Everything in Writing and Save Copies For Yourself
Arguably the most important advice for moving is to get everything in writing, and keep copies for yourself. If you’re signing a lease, giving or accepting first and last month’s rent, or otherwise agreeing to an particular term of your tenancy, you want this in writing. Just as important, be sure you keep copies for yourself.
Take Photos of An Apartment When Moving In and Out
If you are moving in or out of an apartment, take advantage of your smartphone’s camera and take pictures of your unit. Disputes over the condition of a rental unit can easily be resolved if the tenant or landlord has photographic evidence of the apartment. Even if you are certain that no problems will arise, take five minutes and do this simple step. Even better, ask a friend or family member to come with you to the apartment, so you have a witness if such a problem does come up. This is a simple piece of advice for moving that can make all the difference later on.
Know What to Do About Poor Conditions in a Rental Unit
Another important piece of advice for moving is to know what to do if your apartment is not in the condition it is suppose to be. In such a case, you should immediately contact the landlord, report the problem (in writing), and give the landlord an opportunity to correct the defects. If the landlord fails to take care of it, you can file a complaint with the City of Boston Inspectional Services (if you are renting outside of Boston, contact your town or city government for the appropriate agency to file a complaint).
It is important to know that a landlord cannot retaliate against a tenant for filing such a complaint. In other words, the landlord cannot “punish” a tenant by evicting them or changing the terms of their tenancy.
For landlords, be certain to address complaints in an apartment promptly. Failure to do so can lead to larger problems down the road.
Be Aware of Massachusetts’s Security Deposit Law
Massachusetts has one of the strictest security deposit laws in the country. This law is so long and detailed that most do not understand all of its provisions, and many landlords fail to comply with it. For this reason, I advise that landlords do not accept a security deposit. If you are a landlord and have accepted a security deposit, consider speaking to a landlord-tenant attorney to ensure you are in compliance with this law.
For tenants, problems with security deposits often arise when tenants attempt to get their deposits back. If you are having such a problem, an attorney may be able to help. Massachusetts’s security deposit law provides for attorney fees and treble damages against landlords who do not follow this law.
Don’t Get “Storrowed”
In addition to always having traffic, Storrow Drive is known for being a “trap for the unwary” on moving day. Trucks are not allowed on this parkway, and each year, at least one renter makes the news for getting stuck under one of Storrow Drive’s many bridges. Don’t let this be you.
If you need help with a landlord-tenant matter, contact me for a consultation.