Massachusetts state law sets down clear rules for the rights and responsibilities of both tenants and landlords in the area of Boston. However, tenants are sometimes unclear about their responsibilities while living in a rented house or apartment. This often leads to misunderstandings and, eventually, ends up in court.
In order to avoid any unpleasantness, it is as important to know your responsibilities as a tenant as it is to know your rights. This holds especially true for students who are renting for the first time in Boston.
Payments Before Moving In
In Boston, a landlord has the right to ask you to pay certain amounts before you move into the rented property. These include one month’s security deposit, rent for the first and last month and the cost of buying and installing a lock and key.
Your rental agent will charge you a finder’s fee which can be any amount the two of you agree on. Remember, this fee can only be charged by a registered agent or sales person and not by a landlord.
Notice Before Ending Tenancy
It is your responsibility, according to Boston tenant laws, as a tenant to give a 30 days or the equivalent of one full rental period advance written notice if you wish to end your tenancy.
Paying Rent on Time
The landlord is legally allowed by MA law to start the eviction process if your rent is even a day late, therefore you must ensure that you always pay the rent on time.
Payment for Damage
A landlord is allowed to deduct from your security deposit if:
- You have unpaid rent
- Damage has been caused to the property by you or any person in your control (for example guests)
- The property has been damaged by pets
Landlord’s Access to Rented Property
Your landlord is allowed to enter your premises for the following reasons:
- Showing of property to prospective tenant, buyer etc
- If the property has been abandoned by you
- To assess the damages so they can prepare a list of repairs for you during your last month of tenancy
However, this does not mean the landlord can enter your premises in an unreasonable manner. They must attempt to set a convenient time with you prior to their visit.
Water and Heating Costs
Though the landlord is responsible for ensuring that all heating, water and other systems are in good working condition, as a tenant you might be responsible for the monthly cost of these utilities if stated in your tenancy agreement or lease.
Although not a legal responsibility, it is still wise to maintain a record of each scrap of paper relating to your rented house or apartment. In case of any misunderstanding or disagreement, these will be quite helpful in proving your case. For instance, if despite repeated letters to a landlord for a repair requiring immediate attention, the landlord does not comply, you are allowed to get emergency repairs done. However, in order to deduct this amount from your rent, Boston law requires you to provide evidence of such repairs in the form of receipts etc.
Before Moving Out
The best way to avoid any disputes about repair deductions from your security deposit, make sure you schedule an inspection with your landlord before you move out. This way, you can both draw up a list of damages and repairs and will have a good idea of what the cost will be.
Also, make sure you photograph the apartment or house after having moved everything out. These will prove useful in case the landlord exaggerates the damage caused during your stay.
Remember that a good tenant and landlord relationship can make your tenancy period as enjoyable and satisfying as having your own home.