What are a landlord’s rights and responsibilities in MA?

Both landlords and tenants have certain rights and responsibilities. These include keeping rental units in good repair and respecting each other’s rights.

Owning rental property can be lucrative for businesspeople in Massachusetts. There is a great deal of competition for decent housing in the Boston area, and providing a place to live at a good price may be a venture worth looking into. However, it is important for landlords to understand the responsibilities they have to their tenants. Rental home owners also have rights to protect them from irresponsible or abusive tenants, as well.

Landlord responsibilities

Those who own tenant buildings for rent or lease have numerous legal and safety obligations they must meet for their renters, according to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. These include the following:

  • Keeping walkways, stairs and common areas well-lit, maintained and free of debris
  • Preventing vermin or insect infestations from creating a health or safety hazard
  • Addressing known safety issues promptly
  • Refraining from discriminating against a renter
  • Respecting tenants' privacy

What does this mean for landlords of single or multi-unit housing? If, for example, a tenant complained of a wasp infestation near his or her front door, a landlord should get an exterminator over as soon as possible to eliminate the danger. Stairways and sidewalks should not have cracks that could cause a tenant to trip, ice on the walkway or broken handholds that present a fall hazard. If a tenant reports a safety issue that is inside the unit, the landlord may need to enter while the tenant is not at home. This is permissible, but the landlord should give the tenant notice, and not simply enter the unit at will.

According to HowStuffWorks, ignoring landlord responsibilities can result in serious legal trouble. A tenant who is injured by a dangerous property condition may have the right to sue. If there is a known issue with another tenant who is involved in illegal activity, the landlord may also be held liable for not doing anything to prevent crime in the area resulting from the tenant in question.

Tenant responsibilities

There are, however, things a tenant must do to respect the rights of a landlord. Landlords should be able to receive regular and timely rent. They should not have to deal with a tenant who willfully destroys the rental property, such as breaking windows, putting dents in walls or burning cigarette holes into the carpet. If these rules are broken, the landlord has the right to serve the renter with a legal notice of eviction. The landlord may also have the right to pursue compensation for damage done to the property.

Real estate law can be complex for property owners in Boston. Landlords and other property owners may benefit from speaking to an experienced real estate attorney.