This week, I obtained a successful judgment on behalf of several tenants against their landlord for a breach of a lease. This is an important topic for landlords and tenants that I want to discuss here.
What is a Lease?
A lease is a contract for the rental of property. A landlord agrees to allow a tenant to take possession of property for a specific period of time, in exchange for rent. Most residential leases in Massachusetts are for a year, but can be longer.
As stated above, a lease is a contract: a legally binding agreement. Failure to comply with one of the terms of a lease can result in a breach of this agreement, which has legal consequences.
Although a lease is a legally binding agreement, there are certain limitations that a landlord may not include. Massachusetts law prohibits the waiver of many landlord-tenant laws aimed at protecting tenants, such as the security deposit law. This is in contrast to a commercial lease, where landlords have much more flexibility in the rental terms offered to a tenant.
Breach of a Lease by Tenants
The most common type of a breach of a lease by tenants is the failure to pay rent. In such a case, a landlord can pursue an eviction, and seek possession of the rental unit and any owed rent. If the tenant is no longer in possession of the rental unit, the landlord can still seek owed rent through a civil action.
Tenants can also breach a lease by failing to comply with one of the other lease terms, such as keeping the property clean and not making excessive noise. If the breach is severe enough, this can also be grounds for eviction.
Breach of a Lease by Landlords
Landlords, importantly, can also violate a lease. In my recent case, the landlord failed to provide amenities in the apartment that it agreed to do, under a written lease. The Court agreed that the landlord’s failure to do so was a lease violation, and entitled my clients to monetary damages.
This is a critical lesson for landlords: a lease works both ways. Just as a tenant must comply with their end of the bargain, so must a landlord. Failure to do so can result in penalties if brought before a court.
If you need assistance with a breach of a lease, contact me for a consultation.