Massachusetts Landlord Retaliation Laws

Massachusetts Landlord Retaliation Laws

Last Updated: May 5, 2023

Tenant Protected Actions
  • Participating in a Gov’t Action
  • Asserting Rights to Gas/Electricity
  • Complaints to Gov’t or Landlord
  • Participating in a Tenant Organization
Landlord Retaliatory Actions
  • Any Substantial Change in Terms of Tenancy (except for rent default)
Penalties for Retaliation
  • Statutory Damages
  • Court Costs + Attorney Fees

When Is It Illegal for Landlords to Retaliate in Massachusetts?

It’s illegal for Massachusetts landlords to retaliate with any substantial change in the terms of the tenancy, against tenants who have taken one of the following protected actions in the past six months:

  • Participate in government actions (lawsuits, etc.) relating to the tenancy.
  • Assert their statutory rights to gas and electric service.
  • Complain to the landlord or government about mismanagement of the property.
  • Participate in a tenant organization.

The law allows an exception when the landlord can prove a non-retaliatory, good-faith reason for the alleged retaliatory action. For example, a landlord who raises rent proportionately in response to a large increase in property tax is not retaliating, even if a tenant has recently complained about maintenance.

What Can Tenants Do in Response in Massachusetts?

If a landlord retaliates in Massachusetts, the tenant can respond by suing the landlord for damages (actual damages or 1-3 month’s rent, whichever is greater) plus court costs and attorney fees. Retaliation is also a defense against landlord actions like eviction.