Being a Massachusetts landlord isn’t easy. There are many, many cases of landlords who have run afoul of the state’s numerous laws regulating landlord conduct; most of which favor the tenant. Here are five things that every Massachusetts landlord needs to know.
1. A Landlord is Responsible for Maintaining Rental Property
While this may be obvious to most landlords, it is worth a mention here. A landlord is responsible for maintaining their rental property, including compliance with the state’s sanitary code.
This is in contrast to commercial real estate, where a landlord is permitted to offer a property “as is.” Doing this is strictly prohibited for residential property; even if a landlord and tenant signed an agreement that excused a landlord from taking care of a rental property, it would be void and unenforceable at law.
2. Fair Housing Laws Exist (And Are Enforced)
Both federal and Massachusetts law ban housing discrimination. Housing discrimination laws are enforced, and come with steep penalties for landlords who violate these provisions. A Massachusetts landlord needs to know these laws and be aware of the kind of conduct that violates these regulations.
3. Security Deposits Are Heavily Regulated in Massachusetts
Massachusetts’s security deposit law is among the most complex and confusing laws in the state, filled with traps for the unwary. Few Massachusetts landlords fully comply with its provisions, and failure to do so can result in treble damages, attorney fees, and costs against a landlord. Massachusetts landlords should strongly consider not taking a security deposit. If they do, it is essential that they learn and abide by this law’s detailed requirements.
4. Good Tenants Are a Good Investment
What’s the best way to avoid problems with tenants? Choose good tenants. The extra time and expense in picking good candidates for rental units are worth its expense, many, many times over.
5. Evictions Are Costly
Massachusetts law permits a landlord to bring an eviction against a tenant for outstanding rent, and a civil action for damage to a rental unit. However, even under the best case scenario, it is rare for a landlord to be made completely whole through an eviction proceeding or lawsuit. The expenses of bringing such a case, and the difficulties of enforcing one of these judgments, are factors that every Massachusetts landlord needs to know.
If you need assistance with a landlord-tenant matter, contact me for a consultation.