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Massachusetts Property Management Laws

Property managers need to know the laws and regulations regarding tenant and landlord relationships, which often change between locations. If you're a tenant who has recently changed states, you can also face confusion trying to determine your exact rights under the law.

This guide was created to provide resources and information to landlords and renters who may experience a variety of issues with their housing. This outline provides direction to the exact statutes that govern renting in Massachusetts.

Key Points

  • 1 Landlords cannot charge more than one month’s rent for a security deposit.
  • 2 Late fees are not permissible until 30 days after the rent is due in Massachusetts.
  • 3 There are strict building codes, but many do not apply to buildings with less than three rental units.
  • 4 There are numerous regulations regarding what amenities and utilities a property manager must provide and keep in working order.

Note: This guide is intended to be used as an educational resource. The contents within do not constitute legal advice. To obtain information regarding property management laws in your state, consult a local attorney. This guide is based only on property management laws at the state level. Local county and city laws may exist that are not discussed in this guide. Consult a local attorney to obtain information that pertains to your specific location and situation.

Property Management Laws Overview in Massachusetts

Code Description
Rental Application Laws
940-3-17-4 Security Deposit Laws
239-1-A Lease and Termination Laws
186-15 Rent and Late Fee Laws
410-481 Disclosure Laws
410-500 Landlord Responsibility Laws
410-010 Property Maintenance and Repair Laws

Rental Application Laws

What application fees are allowed? 

Landlords are not bound to regulations determining the cost of application fees, but a typical charge is between $35 and $100 per adult applicant.

Can landlords run backgrounds checks before renting to a tenant?

Yes, landlords usually run background checks to verify tenants have: 

  • An acceptable credit score and rental payment history
  • Verifiable financial and employment information
  • No major criminal history, although some criminal background screening practices are considered discriminatory by Massachusetts state law

Is a landlord able to deny an application based on disability or other protected status?

Under the federal Fair Housing Act, property managers may not base their decision to rent to a tenant on race, age, disability, family status, gender, religion or sexuality. A landlord may also not discriminate against a renter who has negative implications on their report, such as requesting locks to be changed, if the events are due to domestic violence (186-25).

Security Deposit Laws

Are additional move-in fees allowed?  

Yes, landlords typically charge a security deposit to cover potential damages and unpaid rent at the end of the lease, as well as a pet deposit if a tenant wants to have an animal.

Is there a limit on the security deposit amount that can be charged? 

State law dictates that a security deposit may equal no more than one month’s rent (940-3-17-4-A-3).

Does the landlord have to hold the security deposit in a specific way during occupancy? 

Yes, a landlord must maintain security deposits in a secured bank account used only for security deposits that is not accessible by creditors (186-15-B-E).

How long does the landlord have to return the security deposit after move out? 

The landlord must return the security deposit to the tenant within 30 days of the tenancy ending, with an itemized report of any charges against it (186-15-B-4).

What are the reasons why a landlord can withhold part or all of the security deposit?

A landlord is able to use a security deposit to pay for damages caused by the tenant and any fees that were left unpaid when the tenancy was terminated (186-15-B-4-i).

What is the penalty if the landlord doesn’t return the security deposit? 

If a tenant believes that a landlord willfully withheld a security deposit that is owed them, they can file a petition with the local courts to recover their money as well as possibly damages and attorney fees.

Other Laws About Security Deposits in Massachusetts

Do landlords need to conduct a move-in inspection to use a security deposit to pay for damages?

Yes, an inspection must be completed and a report must be furnished to the new tenant no later than 10 days after the tenant moves into the rental unit (186-15-B-2-C). A tenant has 15 days to contest the itemized condition report if they need to report existing damages.

Laws About Leases and Lease Termination

What types of lease terms are allowed? 

Massachusetts allows for lease terms to be dictated by the landlord and tenant, and residencies are considered at-will and on a month-to-month basis if not otherwise specified.

What happens if the tenant violates the lease? 

If a tenant violates the lease, a landlord is able to terminate the lease early as outlined in the lease agreement. If the tenant violates the lease by refusing to pay the rent, the landlord can file to quit the lease with a 14-day notice (186-12).

How much notice is required for a month-to-month lease termination? 

Statute 186-13 rules that landlords must provide a tenant 30 days’ notice before requiring them to vacate the premises if they don’t have a lease that states a termination date.

When can a tenant terminate a term lease without penalty? 

If a landlord fails to maintain the safety and habitability of a premises, the tenant may either petition the local health authority to make the repairs themselves or break their lease.

How much notice do service members have to supply before terminating the lease?

Military members who are forced to move to change base or deploy are able to break their lease with reasonable notice, preferably within at least 30 days. They are responsible for the rent due for the 30 days following the lease termination.

Are there special lease termination rules for victims of domestic violence? 

Yes, victims of domestic violence are permitted to break their lease with a 30-day notice (186-24) if they give the landlord a copy of the court order or another document regarding the incident. The tenant may also request their locks be changed at their expense (186-26), which the landlord must make a good faith effort to complete within two days of receiving the tenant’s request.

How and when can a landlord evict a tenant? 

A landlord may evict a tenant for violating the lease, or in an at-will tenancy, the tenancy may end for no reason with proper notice. The landlord must file eviction proceedings with the local court to remove a tenant.

How much notice does a landlord have to give before making changes to the property that result in the termination of tenancy? 

A landlord must provide a tenant a 30-day notice to terminate their lease (239-1-A).

Laws About Rent and Late Fees

When can a landlord increase rent? 

If a tenant is under lease, the landlord must negotiate a rent increase when they renew the lease. On a month-to-month lease, the landlord doesn’t need to provide a specific amount of notice, but the tenant must either agree to the increase in writing or vacate the unit.

Is there a maximum amount of rent that a landlord can charge tenants? 

There is no cap on the amount a landlord can charge to rent their properties, but those who want to qualify as low-income housing may be bound to rent restrictions.

Is there rent control in Massachusetts?

No, rent is not controlled in the state, but local ordinances and government housing projects may have different guidelines.

Is there a state-mandated grace period that landlords must give tenants before charging a late fee? 

In Massachusetts, the rent is considered late 30 days after the beginning of the month, and a late fee may be assessed at that time (186-15-B-C).

Is there a limit on how much of a late fee the landlord can charge tenants?

No, a landlord can charge whatever amount has been agreed upon in the lease as a late fee.

Legally Required Disclosures

What types of disclosures are landlords required to supply regarding ownership of the property?

If a property owner does not reside on the premises, they must clearly post their name and contact information in a notice no less than 20 inches in size (410-481) in a conspicuous location on the property, such as in the laundry room. 

Can the owner designate an agent to serve and receive disclosures? 

A landlord may authorize an agent to sign documents and serve papers to a tenant as long as the lease includes their name and contact information (940-3-17-B-2).

What disclosures related to mold are landlords required to supply?

There is no required mold disclosure in Massachusetts, but landlords may not rent a property that they know to be dangerous to human health and safety as listed in statute 410-750, including those with the presence of mold.

What disclosures related to lead paint are landlords required to supply?

In Massachusetts, landlords are not permitted to rent out units that are known to have lead paint on the premises (410-502).

Other Required Disclosures in Massachusetts

Do landlords need to inform the renter if the premises was the scene of a death or is haunted?

If a landlord knows about the presence of a psychological disturbance in the property, they are not required to provide a written or oral disclosure. However, they must answer truthfully if questioned by the renter (93-114).

Laws About Landlord Responsibilities

How much notice does the landlord have to supply before entry? 

Massachusetts landlords do not need to supply tenants with notice before they attempt to enter their properties, but they are expected to provide the tenant a reasonable timeframe (410-810), generally 24 hours, to provide access. Unreasonable attempts to enter can be blocked in court with a restraining order.

When can the tenant refuse to allow the landlord entry? 

The landlord may only enter an occupied rental unit to:

  • Inspect for damages
  • Make needed repairs
  • Show the building to prospective tenants
  • By court order
  • If the property is suspected to be abandoned

What steps must the landlord take to keep the property habitable? 

Landlords are responsible for maintaining the structural integrity of their properties, keeping them weather-tight and free from holes that pests could get into (410-500) and performing actions needed to keep the property clean and secure.

What amenities must the landlord supply and maintain? 

Massachusetts law requires landlords to provide:

  • Kitchen accommodations that include a working stove and oven as well as a sink and space for a refrigerator (410-100) and adequate, sanitary space to prepare and eat food.
  • At least one working bathroom complete with a toilet and shower or bathtub per 8 residents (410-150-8).
  • Heating facilities in every room maintained in good working order (410-200).
  • Proper ventilation.
  • Adequate natural light with windows that take up at least 8% of the entire floor area of a room (410-250-A).
  • Two electrical wall outlets per room at least 10 feet apart (410-25-B) or one outlet and one light fixture.
  • Kitchens must have two fixtures as well as a window if the area is over 70 feet.
  • Working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors (410-482).
  • Emergency lighting systems and lighted exits signs in buildings with over ten rental units (410.483).
  • Buildings with stairs over 30 inches in height must have handrails at least 34 inches high (410-503-B), and all porches or balconies over 30 inches must have guard walls or other permanent barriers, at least 36 inches high.
  • Buildings with more than three rental units must have regular garbage removal services (410-600-C).

What utilities must the landlord supply and maintain? 

State laws dictate that landlords must provide residents with:

  • Running hot and potable water with sufficient water pressure (410-180)
  • Adequate lighting in all common areas (410-253-B)

Does the landlord have to supply a certificate of inspection? 

All state-regulated inspections are maintained at the board of health and are available on request, generally free of charge (410-820-B).

Is the landlord required to supply locks and keys?

Yes, landlords are required to provide tenants with working locks, and any building that contains more than three homes must contain an automatically-locking door at every main entryway. Exterior windows must also be capable of being locked (410-480).

Are retaliatory actions prohibited?  

Yes, it is prohibited for a landlord to retaliate against a tenant by raising their rent or threatening eviction, as well as by discontinuing services such as utilities. A tenant may be considered as being retaliated against if a landlord moves to any of these actions within 6 months after a tenant:

  • Makes requests for needed repairs or maintenance
  • Files a complaint against the landlord with the board of health
  • Joins a tenants union (940-317-6-B)

Other Laws About the Landlord’s Responsibilities in Massachusetts

May landlords rent properties known to have lead paint on any surface?

No, it is prohibited under Massachusetts law 410-502 to rent a dwelling that is known to contain any lead-based paint.

Property Maintenance and Repair Laws

What type of maintenance is the landlord responsible for?

Landlords are responsible for the general upkeep of their properties, including:

  • Pest control in buildings with more than one dwelling unit (410-550-B)
  • Maintaining a safe and tidy premises (410-602) in all common areas

If a tenant is not required to maintain their heating utilities, the landlord is required to heat properties to between 64 and 78 degrees between June and September (410.201).

How long does the landlord have to make repairs? 

When a repair request is made by the board of health, the landlord has 12 hours to make a good faith attempt to provide repair services within 24 hours if the repairs are needed to maintain (410-830-A):

  • Water facilities
  • Heating
  • Lighting
  • A sanitary drainage system
  • Structural integrity, such as that of doors and windows or roofs
  • Exterior additions, such as porches and stairways
  • Pest infestations

A landlord has a week to comply if the repairs are required to maintain any other need, and the licensing board will follow up five days after the request has been submitted to verify the landlord’s efforts. There must be a good faith effort to complete all needed work in 30 days (410-830-B).

What type of maintenance is the tenant responsible for? 

Tenants are required to keep their homes clean and in good condition and are bound to strict laws regarding maintenance, including:

  • Restrooms must be maintained daily (410.151) in shared units.
  • Tenants in buildings with less than three rental units must maintain the cleanliness of the exterior area surrounding their unit (410-602-C).
  • All structural aspects of a building such as doors and windows must be respected by the tenant and their guests (410.505).
  • If the tenant resides in the only unit on a property, they are responsible for maintaining a pest-free environment, but the landlord must provide security measures such as screens at entryways (410-550-A).
  • Tenants must regularly remove trash from their premises (410-600-D).

Is the landlord responsible to fix damage caused by tenants? 

A landlord may use the tenants security deposit (410-3-17-4) to pay for the cost of needed repairs and cleaning that resulted from the tenancy.

When does a landlord have to return and/or lower rent due to diminished rental value? 

There is no statute that requires a landlord to reduce the monthly cost of rent if the building diminishes in value.

When can a tenant request an official inspection to determine substandard or dangerous living conditions? 

If any conditions exist that do not meet the state minimum requirements for a safe, habitable environment as outlined above, the tenant may contact the board of health to request an official inspection (410-820).

Under what circumstances can a tenant make a repair and deduct the cost from the rent paid to the landlord? 

If a tenant has to make needed repairs due to the landlord refusing to respond to a repair request after receiving notice, they may withhold rent to pay for the repairs (239-8-A).

When is a landlord required to pay for relocation assistance? 

Landlords must carry sufficient fire insurance ($750) to assist tenants in relocation efforts If a tenant is forced to relocate due to a fire on the premises (175-99-15-A).

Other Laws About Property Maintenance and Repair Laws Massachusetts

Do managers need to provide electrical services to homes if they aren’t near power lines?

No, a landlord need only supply electrical fixtures if a building resides within 600 feet of an available power line (410-258). 

Additional Rental Law Resources for the State of Massachusetts 

Tenants and landlords can reach out to these agencies for assistance in managing their renting situations as well as to find additional information and resources.

Name Phone Number Description
Massachusetts Affordable Housing N/A The Massachusetts government website has many resources for tenants and renters, including landlord and tenant law education and a guide to finding affordable housing in the state.
HUD Renter’s Rights Website N/A Provides education to landlords and tenants regarding landlord and tenant laws in Massachusetts and provides resources and links to local housing authorities.
Massachusetts Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) (617) 573-1100 This program provides yearly assistance to low-income residents in the form of energy bill payments which are generally made directly to the utility company.
Housing Discrimination Hotline (800) 669-9777 Renters can call the Housing Discrimination Hotline to report discriminatory practices by landlords. They can also report suspected fraud and waste in HUD managed programs.

Note: This guide is intended to be used as an educational resource. The contents within do not constitute legal advice. To obtain information regarding property management laws in your state, consult a local attorney. This guide is based only on property management laws at the state level. Local county and city laws may exist that are not discussed in this guide. Consult a local attorney to obtain information that pertains to your specific location and situation.