Massachusetts Renter’s Rights for Repairs

Massachusetts Renter’s Rights for Repairs

Last Updated: May 5, 2023

Tenants in Massachusetts have the legal right to repairs for issues that place the property in violation of state health and safety standards. To exercise this right, they must notify the landlord of the issue in writing (or have a government agency issue notice) and allow a reasonable time for repairs.

Massachusetts Landlord Responsibilities for Repairs

Landlords in Massachusetts are responsible for keeping all of the following in good working condition:

  • Kitchen (sink, stove, oven).
  • Bathroom (toilet, wash basin, bathtub/shower, sewage).
  • Hot and cold water.
  • Heating.
  • Required light fixtures.
  • Electrical service.
  • Locks and weatherproofed doors/windows (including screens).
  • Smoke and CO detectors.
  • Owner-provided appliances.
  • Garbage removal.
  • Railings for stairs, balconies, etc.
  • Common areas.
  • Smoke alarms.
  • Anything else impacting health, safety, or habitability.

If any of the above stops working properly, and the tenant isn’t at fault for the damage, the landlord is the one responsible for making the repairs necessary to fix it.

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What Repairs Are Tenants Responsible for in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts tenants are responsible for repairing any damage they cause to the property which affects health and safety.

Requesting Repairs in Massachusetts

Massachusetts tenants must request repairs through registered or certified mail, although the landlord is also considered to be on proper notice of a particular need for repairs after the government has cited a specific health violation on the property.

Can the Landlord Refuse To Make Repairs in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts landlords cannot refuse to make repairs that are their responsibility. Refusal to repair might justify the tenant beginning to withhold rent.

How Long Does a Landlord Have To Make Repairs in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts landlords have a “reasonable time” to make repairs after receiving written notice from the tenant or a citation from the government. What’s reasonable is determined based on the total circumstances, case by case, but repairs usually should be substantially finished within 14 days.

Do Landlords Have To Pay for Alternative Accommodation During Repairs in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts landlords are not required to pay for alternative accommodation while they conduct repairs. However, the landlord must proportionately reduce rent in any situation which excludes the tenant from the full, uninterrupted quiet enjoyment of the rental property.

Tenant’s Rights if Repairs Aren’t Made in Massachusetts

Massachusetts landlords who don’t make timely repairs breach the implied warranty of habitability and suspend the tenant’s responsibility to pay rent. The tenant might also be able to repair and deduct, sue for damages, or ask a court to cancel the rental agreement.

Can the Tenant Withhold Rent in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts tenants can withhold rent when a landlord fails to make timely repairs. Deducting the entire amount of rent is not allowed. The tenant still has to pay fair value for the premises, reduced in proportion to how severely the issues affect the rental property.

Can the Tenant Repair and Deduct in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts tenants can arrange for repairs and deduct the reasonable, actual costs from the rent, when the landlord fails to begin repairs within five days after notice, or fails to finish repairs within fourteen days after notice. Tenants can deduct up to four months’ rent in any 12-month period.

Can the Tenant Break Their Lease in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts tenants can break their lease, but generally only by judicial permission as part of a court action. For example, a court that finds interference with the quiet enjoyment of the premises has the power to terminate the lease.

Can the Tenant Sue in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts tenants can sue for a landlord’s failure to repair by claiming a breach of the warranty of habitability or the covenant of quiet enjoyment.

Can the Tenant Report the Landlord in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts tenants can report landlords for code violations that affect health or safety. Tenants should usually report to the local inspections or code enforcement department. If an inspecting officer finds a violation, the landlord is on notice to repair it and the tenant doesn’t have to provide notice.

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Landlord Retaliation 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.

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