Drugs in a Rental Apartment: What to Do

Drugs in a rental apartment are a serious problem for landlords. Aside from the obvious dangers that arise anytime illegal drugs are involved, landlords can face potential liability for not addressing such matters right away.

Fortunately, Massachusetts law has an expedited means of allowing landlords to handle such problems.

Drugs and Other Illegal Activity in Rental Apartments

Massachusetts law allows a landlord to void a lease for drugs and other illegal activity occurring in rental apartments (including prostitution, assignation, lewdness, illegal gaming, or the illegal keeping or sale of alcoholic beverages). Compared to a typical eviction, this process of voiding a lease is intended to be much quicker.

However, a hearing must still occur for such a case, and a tenant is permitted to present a defense. Courts, moreover, will look closely at a landlord’s evidence to ensure that a landlord has adequate grounds for such relief. For drugs in a rental apartment, courts will generally require a showing that drugs were found in the apartment itself (and not simply in a common area or outside the rental unit).

If successful in such a case, a court will grant a landlord an execution for possession.

Practical Implications

Landlords need to ensure that they have good grounds for bringing an action to void a lease under this law. Generally, a good-faith belief that drugs exist in a rental apartment won’t be enough for one of these claims; a landlord will need some actual proof (such as a police report).

If a landlord does not have grounds for voiding the lease under this law, the landlord can still likely do an eviction on other grounds. In such a scenario, a landlord should speak with an experienced landlord-tenant attorney to discuss their options.


If you need assistance with a landlord-tenant matter, contact me for a consultation.