Rights & Responsibilities
While the landlord is the ultimate owner of the property, you also have specific rights as a tenant. It is important to know both your rights and responsibilities as a renter, and your landlord’s rights and responsibilities. Learn more Massachussetts tenant rights and responsibilities below.
Each state has different laws, so make sure you familiarize yourself with state and city housing laws in your new destination. Moving out-of-state for co-op? Visit Beyond Boston Resources
Before You Move In
Research your Realtor
Keep in mind only licensed brokers are allowed to charge you a broker’s fee when securing an apartment. Need to make sure the realtor you’re working with has a valid license in the state of Massachusetts? See if their license is valid using this link, a tool managed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Research your Apartment, Landlord, or Property Manager
You can research your new apartment or an apartment you are interested in to get a comprehensive background report on the property owner, property, landlords and property managers. We recommend these three tools:
RentSmart Boston is a free resource that compiles data from BOS:311 and the City’s Inspectional Services Division to give prospective tenants a more complete picture of the apartments they are considering renting. The tool prompts users for an address and generates a report to assist prospective tenants in understanding any previous issues with the property, including:
- Housing violations
- Building violations
- Enforcement violations
- Housing complaints
- Sanitation requests and/or
- Civic maintenance requests
MySmart Renter is a paid resource (approx $35/report) that provides a comprehensive background report on owners, landlords and property managers of any property you’re considering leasing/renting. Give yourself peace of mind at a fraction of what you could potentially lose in a scam or dealing with a negligent landlord.
ReviewMyLandlord is a free resource that allows you to read reviews and write your own on a landlord and property.
You have many rights as a tenant, much of which pertain to making your apartment livable. If the following requirements are not met, you may have the right to withhold a portion of the rent; however, please contact Off Campus Engagement and Support or seek legal advice before doing so.
- You must be provided with running water, and you can’t be charged for it unless you live in a single-family home or you have a sub-meter for your unit.
- You must be provided a sink, stove, and oven. Note that a refrigerator is not required, but if one is provided, it must be kept in good working condition.
- The landlord must keep the apartment rodent- and insect-free.
- Your landlord (or their agent) may only enter your apartment to inspect the premises, make repairs, show the apartment to prospective tenants, in accordance with a court order, and the landlord must provide you with proper notice.
- Landlords or their agents may enter without notice only in an emergency.
- Your landlord cannot terminate tenancy or raise rent in response to you exercising your legal rights. If such actions are taken within six months of you contacting the Board of Health, joining a tenants’ organization, or exercising any other legal rights, those actions can be considered retaliation against you. The landlord will be required to prove otherwise.
- Pay your rent – Pay your rent on time or you may be subject to late fees and/or eviction.
- Follow the terms of the lease – You can be evicted before your lease is up if you do not obey the terms of the lease.
- Write down and photograph any damages – You are responsible for documenting and providing your landlord with a list of everything that is wrong when you move in. When you move out, if there are damages to the apartment, the landlord has the right to charge for the damages and deduct the cost from your security deposit.
- Remove garbage and recyclables in a clean and safe manner into the appropriate containers and follow proper garbage collection procedures for your street.
- Be responsible for your conduct and the conduct of other persons on the property, whether known by you or not.
Use your rights to your benefit and make your tenancy a successful and happy one! More great information can be found on the City of Boston Neighborhood Development Office of Housing Stability website and in the Good Neighbor Handbook.
Landlord Rights & Responsibilities
The landlord also has rights and responsibilities, many of which are protected in the lease.
- The right to prompt payment. The landlord should be paid by the day indicated in the lease. There is no grace period in Massachusetts, but a landlord cannot charge a late penalty unless there is a “late payment penalty” clause in the lease and not until it is 30 days late.
- The right to have the tenant follow the terms of the tenancy agreement. If the agreement is broken, the landlord has the right to explore lease termination.
- The right to increase the rent but must follow the law in doing so. If lease is a tenancy–at–will, a tenant must be notified at least a full rental period in advance. If a fixed-term lease, the rent can only be increased after the lease expires, unless the lease states otherwise.
- The right to have tenants pay for their own utilities (electricity and gas) and should be stated in the tenancy agreement.
- Provide running water and pay for water usage unless sub-meters have been installed or rental is a single-family home.
- Provide a sink, stove, and oven. Note that a refrigerator is not required, but if one is provided it must be kept in good working condition.
- The right to enter the tenant’s apartment at specific times, with proper notice. A landlord may enter for the following reasons: to show the apartment to prospective tenants, purchasers, lenders or their agents; to make necessary repairs; to inspect within 30 days of the end to the tenancy to assess damages that should be deducted from the security deposit; the apartment appears abandoned; or there is a court order to enter. Landlords or their agents may enter without notice in an emergency.
- Keep the apartment rodent- and insect-free. A landlord must pay for rodent/insect removal if there are 2 or more units in the building.
- A landlord cannot terminate tenancy or raise rent in response to a tenant exercising their legal rights. If such actions are taken within six months of a tenant contacting the Board of Health, joining a tenants’ organization, or exercising any other legal rights, those actions can be considered retaliation. The landlord will be required to prove otherwise.
For more detailed information, visit City of Boston: Renting in Boston.
What can I do if my landlord violates my rights?
Use the following resources to take action!
- Contact Off Campus Engagement and Support directly by phone, email or visit us in 151 Speare Hall.
- Call the Boston Office of Housing Stability to ask about your rights and Massachusetts tenant and landlord law.
- Set up a free inspection of your apartment with the Inspectional Services Department (City of Boston).
- Review rights and responsibilities in the Good Neighbor Handbook.
- Has your landlord started the eviction process? Learn your rights! Read Mass.gov’s Tenant’s Guide to Eviction.
- Are you being discriminated against? Find out here.