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MA Landlord and Tenant Law Questions and Answers

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Landlord and Tenant FAQ


Can I break my lease in MA in a hardship situation?

I signed a 1 yr lease, putting down first and last months rent back in September. I was laid off in December, and continued to pay rent with the severance I received while I looked for work. I accepted a position in CT this week, and thus had to relocate. My landlord expects me to pay rent until the apartment finds a new tenant, I realize I'm under a contract, but is there an exception for this if I needed to relocate for a job?

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

No, MA law does not allow you to break your lease in hardship situations.  You are bound by the terms of the contract you signed and may still be responsible for rent until the end of the term.  However, Massachusetts law obligates your landlord to make reasonable efforts to rent the apartment to someone else and, thus, eliminate or reduce your liability for the rent owed for the remaining term of the lease.  If you find a suitable person to assume the lease, and the landlord refuses, you may not be liable for the entire term of the lease.....

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How should landlord serve notice to quit?

My tenants refused to sign any notices delivered to them. So, I sent a certified mail. They were very upset that I took that approach. I explained that I have to cover myself by making sure that I have something as proof in writing, just in case there should be any disputes later. Since then, a letter regarding a rent increase was hand delivered the same day the rent was collected. They refused to sign that they received the letter; furthermore they refused to note on my copy the date of receipt. I would like to give them a letter that I am terminating their month to month lease and requesting that they vacate the premises. I am afraid that if I send this letter by certified mail, they will not pick up or accept, and therefore use the excuse that they did not receive any letter to leave the premises. I'm also very concern about having a date of receipt because I don’t want them to say that they received the letter less than 30 days. Is there an alternative method that I can use to make sure that they sign and date the letter upon receipt? Thank you.

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

The best way to serve a Notice to Quit or other correspondence is by using a sheriff or constable (find them in the phone book).  It will cost about $30, but it's worth it.  If the tenant plays games or refuses to open the door, the constable will leave a copy of the notice on the door and mail a copy to the tenant.  The constable will then give you a copy of the served document along with a 'Return of Service.'  You then file this Return of Service along with the Notice to Quit when/if you need to start the eviction.  This process creates 'prima facie' evidence of service and the court will consider the....

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how many can live in a 1 bedroom apartment

I have recently rented a 1 bedroom apartment to a couple. They have been having their 15 and 16 year old brothers live with them in this 1 bedroom apartment with out our permission. Is their a law on how many people can stay in a 1 bedroom apartment, The apartment only has a bedroom, living room, kitchen and bathrrom.

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

The lease may cover the issue by limiting the number of people who can live in the unit and, in some cases, authorizing the landlord to charge additional rent for additional tenants.  However, the Housing and Sanitation code must also be considered.  The code limits the number of residents in an apartment, based on the square footage of the rental unit.  See 105 CMR 410:400:

 

410.400: Minimum Square Footage

 

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How long does eviction take in Massachusetts?

I am the landlord. After inspection of the property, it was discovered that the occupants had made many alterations (without obtaining permission) which result in many repairs that are needed. Additionally, the occupants installed bolts on the doors without permission, thus, allowing themselves to lock themselves inside the property. After the inspection took place, the tenant made false allegations about the inspection visit. As per the lease, the tenant had an opportunity to purchase the property, but since they didn't, I listed the property for sale. The term of the lease has now expired, and the tenant is now on at-will monthly basis. Now the tenant has retaliated by refusing to pay rent for the property, therefore we gave 30-day notice, and will likely need to file an eviction. Typically how long does an eviction take to get the occupants out of the property? I need to sell the property, and the occupants are very hostile. The realtors are also now nervous about showing, and even keeping the property listed for fear of the occupants making up false allegations against them. I just want this tenant out of the property since he cannot be trusted to have a landlord/tentant business relationship with. Thanks for your advice.

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

The amount of time required to evict a tenant in Massachusetts can vary a great deal, but it almost always takes longer than the landlord anticipates, and is typically measured in months, rather than in weeks or days.  You can read this post regarding the process in MA for evicting tenants.  After the Notice to Quit is properly served, the landlord must wait until the time the tenant has to leave the apartment has expired, 14 or 30 days for example. Then, the landlord can obtain a Summons and Complaint at court and serve the tenant.  He can do this on or....

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Who is responsible for appliance repairs, landlord or tenant?

I'm moving to an apartment that has an used fridge (long time used). The contract establish that "tenant is responsible for the maintenance & repairs of the fridge". Is that right? Should I sign the contract?  Who is responsible for appliance repairs under MA law?

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

The landlord is not required to include a refrigerator in the unit (unlike a stove, which is required, unless the written rental agreement says otherwise.  See below).  However, if she installs an optional appliance, she is required to keep it in working order, regardless of what the lease or tenancy at will might say.  See 105 CMR (Massachusetts Regulations) 410:351: 

 

410.351: Owner's Installation and Maintenance....

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