Landlord Tenant – Frequently Asked Questions

What information cannot be asked on rental application?

A: The landlord cannot ask about race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, sexual orientations, marital status, age (including the age of any children), ancestry, or disability.

Can a landlord refuse to rent a unit to person with a Section 8 voucher?

A: No, the landlord cannot refuse to rent a unit to a person with a Section 8 voucher.

What is the maximum amount of security deposit a landlord can collect?

A: The landlord can collect up to one months worth of rent for a security deposit.

Does the last month’s rent have to be placed in a separate interest bearing account?

A: Last month’s rent does not have to be held in any special type of account. However, the landlord has an obligation to pay interest on the last month’s rent on a yearly basis , with the year being based on the anniversary of the deposit being received from the tenant. The interest is calculated either at five percent or at the prevailing bank rates if deposited in a separate interest bearing account. Therefore, it is normally in the landlord’s best interest to deposit the last month’s rent in a separate interest bearing account.

Can I charge a tenant for water?

A: Yes, but the tenant has to agree in writing and there are many requirements, restrictions, and penalties for noncompliance.

Do I have to install a ramp for a disabled tenant?

A: Yes, a ramp can usually be installed easily and inexpensively.

Can I have visitors in my apartment for an extended period of time?

A: Unfortunately there is no clear answer to this question. It depends on the agreement that exists between the landlord and the tenant. If the Landlord feels there was a violation, the tenancy can be terminated with a Notice to Quit.

Can I assess a late fee for late rent?

A: Yes, but it can only be assessed after the rent is thirty days late and only if previously agreed upon either in the lease or tenancy at will agreement.

Does a Notice to Quit have to be served by a sheriff or a constable?

A: No, but it strongly recommended because the landlord must prove that the tenant received a copy. The alternative is to have the landlord hand deliver and have the tenant sign a copy confirming receipt or to send it by certified mail. If the tenant refuses to accept either the “in hand” delivery or certified mail, the Court may ultimately find that the Notice to Quit was not served and the eviction action would, most often times, have to be restarted.

When does a thirty day Notice to Quit expire?

A: A thirty day notice expires the last day of the next full rental period. It does not expire within thirty days after service. For example if the tenant pays rent on the first of the month and the landlord served the notice on November 18, it would expire December 31.

I have been served with a Notice to Quit, can I still pay my landlord the rent?

A: If this is the first time you have been served with a Notice to Quit in a twelve month period, the rent can be paid within ten days of receipt of the notice and you will cure the default. However, if you have received more than one notice within a twelve month period, you can still pay the landlord the rent, but this will not stop an eviction proceeding. The landlord still has the right to continue the eviction.

Does a tenant who has properly withheld rent have to place it in an escrow account?

A: No, there is no such obligation.

Can a tenant make his own repairs and deduct it from the rent?

A: Yes, but the tenant has to follow certain requirements before repairing and deducting. The tenant has to have independent verification that a problem is present such that it endangers his health and safety. The tenant that has to properly notify the Landlord and the landlord then has to make the repairs within fourteen days. If the repairs are not completed within that time period the tenant may repair and deduct the cost of repairs.

Does the landlord have an obligation to secure a rental property in a high crime area?

A: Yes, there is a definite obligation to take reasonable steps to secure a property and protect it from unwanted visitors. Reasonable steps include, but are not limited to, installing adequate lighting, automatically locking doors, controlling and monitoring who enters the building, including any person the landlord hires to do work on the property.

The local police called stating that the tenant has been arrested and is in jail for illegal drug possession. Can the landlord remove the tenant’s belongings and change the locks?

A: No, that would be considered “self help” and is not permitted in Massachusetts. However, the landlord does have the ability to immediately file a special action with the Court that will allow for an expedited eviction.

Are there are any documents I have to provide the tenant when they move out?

A: Yes, if a security deposit was taken. In that case, the landlord has an obligation, within thirty days of the move out, to send a signed letter to the tenant returning the deposit and stating they are not making any deductions, or, return a portion of the deposit with specific language itemizing what damages are present and how much is being deducted along with any replacement receipts or contractors estimates.

Can a landlord enter a tenant’s unit without notice?

A: Generally the answer is no, unless there is a verifiable emergency such as a condition leading to a gas leak, flood, or fire which would jeopardize the safety of others or lead to potential damage of the property.