For Tenants and Landlords
to minimize renting stress in 2023
I. DO make sure you understand your (and their) rights and available resources
Though most people don’t picture it this way, when you rent a house or apartment, you are entering into a legal agreement to exchange the exclusive use of the premises for an agreed upon amount – the rent. This agreement is legally binding and subject to the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It’s important that both the landlord and tenant(s) understand their rights and obligations, as well as the rights and obligations of the other party, to avoid any inadvertent violations of law.
II. DON’T engage in “self-help”
When issues or disputes arise within a tenancy, it can be tempting to take immediate action on your own, especially when you believe you’re in the right.
The landlord/tenant relationship in Massachusetts is highly controlled by statute and regulation. When a party takes action over the other party’s objection, without a court order they open themselves up to significant liability, including claims of retaliation, double or treble damages, attorney’s fees, and possibly even criminal liability.
III. DO communicate with the other party
Life happens. Whether it’s a lost job, an unexpected health expense, or a sudden repair, well-intentioned communication is the thing that keeps the situation from blowing up into a hostile legal process. Although there are always exceptions, most people are reasonable when you communicate your situation and are proactive about resolving the issue(s).
IV. DO put it in writing (and read/understand what you sign)
In addition to the rights and obligations conferred by Massachusetts law, many of the rights and responsibilities of the landlord/tenant relationship are established by a written Lease. Your Lease is a legally binding contract; therefore, it is extremely important to review your written Lease and to understand the various terms and conditions it contains.
As a landlord, it is particularly important to know that the terms of your Lease comply with Massachusetts law, since a term that is non-compliant could result in a per-se violation of M.G.L ch. 93A.
V. DON’T ignore correspondence, especially from the Court or Sheriff
When you receive a Notice-to-Quit, a Board of Health report, or a Court Summons, it can be a frightening, stressful experience. The temptation can be to just ignore it, or to “stick your head in the sand” and hope the issue goes away. It won’t.
Evictions are a legal process, one that typically takes months for all but the most serious issues. You will have many opportunities to state your case. The number one, best and most important way to make sure your rights and interests are protected is to appear in court. If you ignore the issue, the overwhelming odds are the situation will get worse.
2023 BONUS “DO”: DO make sure you have qualified counsel with the experience and specialized practice knowledge to help answer your questions, find the resources you’re entitled to, and fight for your rights.