Landlord Advice: Five Tips for Renting in Massachusetts
Landlord advice is a topic I am often asked about for those renting in Massachusetts. Here, I want to share several tips on this important topic.
Use a Written Agreement for All Tenancies
There are generally two options for renting to tenants: a lease (with a specified duration for the tenancy) or a tenancy-at-will (where either party can end the tenancy with proper notice). While leases are generally in writing, tenancies-at-will (often known as “month-to-month” rentals) can be done verbally.
Verbal tenancy agreements should always be avoided. A written agreement should be used for any tenancy relationship and include, at a minimum, the amount of rent, terms of the tenancy, and responsibility for payment of the utilities.
Keep Extensive Records
Records are critical for landlords. If a dispute ever arises with a tenant, having such records are vital for a proper defense.
Records should always be kept of all rent billed and received from a tenant, all work done on the rental property, and all communications between the landlord and tenant.
Don’t Take A Security Deposit
Massachusetts’ security deposit law is long, complex, and impossible to fully understand. Few landlords are in perfect compliance with this law, and any violation can be expensive and time consuming.
Know the Housing Discrimination Laws
State and federal law prohibits housing discrimination. A landlord needs to know these laws and ensure that they are following them. It is a good idea for landlords to review these laws every year, as they do change, and a refresher is always a good idea.
Be Compliant With the State Sanitary Code and Local Zoning Ordinances
All residential housing in Massachusetts comes with an implied warranty of habitability. This means that the property must be fit for a tenant to live in. This responsibility cannot be waived or avoided, under any circumstances.
The guiding star for complying with this warranty is the state sanitary code. A landlord in compliance with this code will generally avoid most potential claims arising from the condition of the rental property.
A landlord should similarly be mindful of local zoning ordinances, and ensure that a property is allowed for renting under the applicable rules and regulations.
Renting in Massachusetts isn’t easy, but having a solid background of the applicable laws is critical for avoiding problems in this area of law. If you need assistance with a landlord-tenant matter, contact me for a consultation.