Every Massachusetts rental agreement must have certain terms, and is prohibited from containing certain other terms.
The lease must include the name, address, and phone number of the owner, the person responsible for maintenance, and the person to whom the tenant can give copies of formal notices, complaints, or court papers.
If the landlord receives a security deposit, the lease or rental agreement must show the amount paid, and must explain the tenant’s rights to that security deposit money.
The landlord must make sure that the tenant is given a legible copy of the lease or rental agreement. The lease must not include illegal terms such as:
- The tenant must pay for the cost of repairing ordinary wear and tear to the apartment.
- The tenant must pay for repairs to parts of the building beyond the tenant’s apartment.
- The tenant may not sue the landlord or report violations of the Sanitary Code.
- The tenant may not join a tenants’ union.
- The tenant must pay a late fee if a rent payment is even one day late. (A lease or rental agreement may permit the landlord to charge a late fee if a rent payment is 30 or more days late.)
Payments at the start of tenancyA landlord may only ask for the following payments up front:
- The first month’s rent.
- A security deposit (which can not be more than one month’s rent) to cover the cost of any damage to the apartment beyond normal wear and tear.
- The last month’s rent (the month that will turn out to be the tenant’s last one in the apartment, not necessarily the last month on the lease).
- The cost of a new lock and key for the apartmentThe landlord should provide a signed receipt for any payment that is made with cash or a money order.
The receipt must include the amount paid and the date the payment was made, and a description of what the payment was for. The receipt should also include the landlord’s name, the tenant’s name, and the name of the person to whom the payment was given.
All security deposits must be deposited in a Massachusetts bank, in an account that collects interest, and within the first month of the tenancy. The landlord must provide the tenant with the name and address of the bank holding the security deposit, plus the account number. Each year, the landlord must either pay the tenant the interest on the security deposit or let the tenant deduct that amount from a rent payment.
The landlord should give the tenant a “statement of condition” within 10 days of the beginning of the tenancy or upon receipt of the security deposit (whichever is later), which describes the condition of the apartment and any damage that exists at that time. The tenant has 15 days to add to the “statement of condition” or make changes to it. Both parties should keep copies of the final “statement of condition.”
When the tenancy ends, the landlord must return the security deposit, plus interest, within 30 days. However, the landlord may keep any unpaid rent or the amount of money needed to repair damage done to the apartment (beyond normal wear and tear). If the lease provides for it, the landlord may also deduct the tenant’s share of any increase in the landlord’s property taxes.
If the landlord decides to keep all or a part of the security deposit for damages, then the landlord must give the tenant a written description of the damage and an estimate of the repair cost within 30 days of the tenant moving out.
Last month’s rent
If the tenant provides the landlord with the last month’s rent at the beginning of the tenancy, then the landlord must give the tenant a signed receipt. Like all receipts in the tenancy process, the receipt must include the amount paid, the date the payment was made, a description of what the payment was for, the landlord’s name, the tenant’s name, and the name of the person to whom the payment was given. At the end of each year and when the tenancy ends, the tenant is entitled to any interest earned on the last month’s rent.
If you find yourself facing a landlord tenant problem, contact the Law Offices of Renee Lazar at 978-844-4095 to schedule a FREE one hour no obligation consultation.