In this blog post, I want to discuss the top five landlord mistakes made by those renting residential property in Massachusetts. Massachusetts has numerous laws protecting tenants, and a landlord’s failure to comply with these regulations can cause major problems down the road. Fortunately, these landlord mistakes are easily avoidable.
1. Accepting a Security Deposit From a Tenant
Few things get a landlord into more trouble than Massachusetts’s security deposit law. Take a minute (or several!), attempt to figure out all of this law’s requirements, and you’ll learn quickly why the law is a disaster waiting to happen. Few landlords comply with all of the law’s detailed requirements, and the failure to do so can result in treble damages, attorney fees, and costs. The risks for landlords just aren’t worth it.
As I have suggested before, a landlord who wants a security deposit should make this part of their monthly rent. For example, if a landlord wants a $1,200 security deposit, they should add (or set aside) $100 each month, rather than requesting it upfront from the tenant. This keeps a landlord from having to comply with the security deposit requirements. Moreover, unlike a security deposit, this money belongs to the landlord if no repairs need to be done at the end of the tenancy.
2. Not Choosing Tenants Carefully
Another common landlord mistake is not choosing tenants carefully. A bad tenant can cause enormous problems to landlords. Evictions can be long and expensive, and collecting a judgment against a tenant can be difficult. Try to avoid these problems in the first place by selecting reputable tenants.
3. Not Using a Written Rental Agreement
Landlords should always use a written rental agreement with tenants, regardless of whether it is a a month-to-month agreement or lease. A written agreement lays out all of the expectations of the landlord and tenant, and can avoid problems from coming up later on. Moreover, if a landlord expects a tenant to pay for any of the apartment’s utilities, a written agreement is a requirement under the state sanitary code.
4. Failing to Maintain Rental Property
If you own rental property, the law requires you to maintain it. Massachusetts’s state sanitary code contains detailed regulations for rental property, and many towns and cities have their own requirements for rental property as well. A tenant must generally provide notice, and a reasonable opportunity to the landlord to address the problem, before the landlord can become liable for not maintaining the property, but a landlord should avoid these problems in the first place by keeping on top of a rental property’s maintenance and care.
5. Attempting an Eviction Without An Attorney
If a landlord needs to get rid of a tenant, an eviction is required. A landlord should never try and do an eviction on their own. While it may be tempting to try and avoid the costs of an eviction, the consequences of making a mistake in one of these cases can be far more expensive down the line. Moreover, an experienced landlord attorney can often help finds ways to make the eviction process go as quickly as possible.
If you find yourself in need of legal assistance, contact me for a consultation.