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For both tenants and landlords alike, it can be difficult to understand all the rules and responsibilities that go along with renting an apartment in Massachusetts. Our Office has a significant amount of information about renting on our website, but we know tenants and landlords have questions based on their specific experiences. Below are some of the most common inquiries that our consumer hotline staff receives.

Tenants and landlords should first always try to work out their differences together. However, when that is not possible, knowing individual rights and responsibilities can be helpful in resolving disputes. Finally, both tenants and landlords have the option of Housing Court should they be unable to settle their disputes.

 

  1. Is there a limit as to how much my landlord can increase the rent?

There is no legal limit to the amount of rent a landlord can charge. However, in order for the rent increase to be valid, the landlord must provide the tenant proper notice of the raise in rent and the tenant must agree to it (signs the lease with the new monthly rent).

 

  1. I know my landlord can increase my last month’s rent, but can she/he increase my security deposit?

No. Even if the rent increases after the tenant has moved into the unit, the security deposit may not also increase. The security deposit can only be less than or equal to the first month’s rent collected at the outset.

 

  1. My roommate and I are both on the lease. My roommate is moving out and a new one is moving in. My landlord asked for an additional security deposit. Can he do that?

If the previous security deposit was refunded to the tenant(s), then, yes, the landlord can request a new one. If the landlord kept the previous security deposit, however, he cannot request an additional deposit.

 

  1. My roommate is moving out. Do we need to update the lease?

While the law remains silent on whether or not a new lease is required, it is recommended that you sign a new lease. Doing so will ensure that your new roommate has the same rights and obligations as you. It also ensures that the previous roommate is no longer legally responsible for rent or damages.

 

  1. Can my landlord refuse to renew my lease? How is that different from eviction?

The tenant has no right to the renewal or extension of a lease. As long as the landlord isn’t retaliating against you for some reason by not renewing your lease, he/she is under no obligation to allow you to renew a lease outside of the existing lease agreement. Eviction differs from lease termination in that the landlord must obtain a court order to remove the tenant from the property in question.

 

  1. We found that the entire apartment has lead paint; what are my rights?

The landlord has a duty to remove any source of lead poisoning from a residential property where a child under the age of six is or will be residing. Learn more about lead paint from the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.

 

  1. My landlord asked for 1 year worth of rent upfront and said he’d deposit them monthly. Is this allowed?

No. The only upfront payments a landlord may request are the first and last months’ rent, a security deposit and costs associated with the purchase and installation of new locks and keys.

This applies for both tenancies at lease and tenancies at will.

 

  1. Does the landlord have to pay interest on a security deposit every year? Does the landlord have to provide written notification of the interest? How do I receive my interest?

Yes, a landlord has to pay the tenant interest on the security deposit and last month’s rent once a year. Each year, the landlord must provide a statement including the name and address of the bank holding the deposit, the number of the account where it resides, and the amount of interest owed to the tenant. The law does not specify in what form the interest payment needs to be, only that the landlord must notify the tenant that instead of receiving cash or check, they may deduct the interest from their next rental payment.

 

  1. What documents/information can my landlord request? Can a landlord/front management company ask me for my tax returns?

Landlords may request tax returns to determine whether the tenant has the financial ability to rent the property in question. However, it is illegal for landlords to discriminate on the basis of the tenant’s source of income.

 

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s vehicular and customized Lemon Laws and Arbitration Programs, Data Breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Programs and the MA Do Not Call Registry.

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