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:
What Repairs Are Tenants Responsible for in Massachusetts?
Massachusetts tenants are responsible for repairingany damage they cause to the propertywhich affects health and safety.
Requesting Repairs in Massachusetts
Massachusetts tenants mustrequest 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 landlordscannot 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 arenot required to pay for alternative accommodationwhile 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 andsuspend 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 tenantscan withhold rentwhen 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 tenantscanarrange for repairs and deductthe 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 tenantscan 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 tenantscan sue for a landlord’s failure to repairby claiming a breach of the warranty of habitability or the covenant of quiet enjoyment.
Can the Tenant Report the Landlord in Massachusetts?
Massachusetts tenantscan report landlords for code violationsthat 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.
It’s illegal for Massachusetts landlords to retaliate withany 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.
“A landlord or lessor of any real estate except an owner-occupied two- or three-family dwelling shall, within a reasonable time following receipt of a written notice from a tenant forwarded by registered or certified mail of an unsafe condition, not caused by the tenant, his invitee, or any one occupying through or under the tenant, exercise reasonable care to correct the unsafe condition described in said notice… The notice requirement of this section shall be satisfied by a notice from a board of health or other code enforcement agency to a landlord or lessor of residential premises.”
“[A]ny and all counterclaims related to the rental premises may justify the withholding of rent… asserting a breach of the warranty of habitability also may provide a rent abatement in whole or in part. The judge also should consider whether a tenant had to pay out of pocket for repairs or maintenance to address habitability issues at the premises. The judge should also consider the [statutory] requirements… such as the landlord’s knowledge of the conditions prior to the withholding of rent and whether the tenant caused the complained of conditions. As mentioned, the amount of any use and occupancy ordered must not exceed the fair value of the rental premises. Further relevant considerations regarding defenses or counterclaims would be whether the housing code [or other] violations alleged are de minimis or substantial and whether documentation such as inspection reports or photographs support a preliminary determination regarding such conditions.”
“When violations of the standards of fitness for human habitation… may endanger or materially impair the health, safety or well-being of a tenant of residential premises and are so certified by the board of health or local code enforcement agency, or in the cities of Boston, Worcester and Cambridge by the commissioner of housing inspection, or by a court of law, and if the owner or his agent has been notified in writing of the existence of the violations and has failed to begin all necessary repairs… within five days after such notice, and to substantially complete all necessary repairs within fourteen days after such notice, unless a board of health, local code enforcement agency or court has ordered that said violations be corrected within a shorter period… the tenant or tenants may repair or have repaired the defects or conditions constituting the violations. The tenant or tenants may subsequently deduct from any rent which may subsequently become due, subject to the provisions of the following paragraph, an amount necessary to pay for such repairs. The tenant or tenants may, alternatively in such cases, treat the lease or rental agreement as abrogated, pay only the fair value of their use and occupation and vacate the premises within a reasonable time. A tenant may not deduct pursuant to this section an amount greater than four months’ rent in any twelve-month period, or period of occupancy, whichever is shorter, from rent due to the owner.”
“[A]ny lessor or landlord who directly or indirectly interferes with the quiet enjoyment of any residential premises by the occupant, or who attempts to regain possession of such premises by force without benefit of judicial process, shall be punished by a fine of not less than twenty-five dollars nor more than three hundred dollars, or by imprisonment for not more than six months. Any person who commits any act in violation of this section shall also be liable for actual and consequential damages or three month’s rent, whichever is greater, and the costs of the action, including a reasonable attorney’s fee, all of which may be applied in setoff to or in recoupment against any claim for rent owed or owing. The superior and district courts shall have jurisdiction in equity to restrain violations of this section.”
“We have held that every landlord that rents residential property warrants to its tenants that the premises will be delivered and maintained in a habitable condition. At a minimum, this warranty imposes on the landlord a duty to keep the dwelling in conformity with the State Sanitary Code. A landlord’s breach of this duty abates the tenant’s obligation to pay rent, even when the landlord is not at fault and has no reasonable opportunity to make repairs. Further, a landlord that fails to maintain a habitable dwelling for its tenant is liable for resulting personal injuries, at least when the landlord has failed to exercise reasonable care in maintenance.”
“[Anyone] who threatens to or takes reprisals against any tenant of residential premises… judicial or administrative action… exercising the tenant’s rights pursuant to section one hundred and twenty-four D of chapter one hundred and sixty-four [right to gas and electric service]; or reporting to… [any] board having as its objective… regulation of residential premises; or reporting or complaining of such violation or suspected violation in writing to the landlord or to the agent of the landlord; or for organizing or joining a tenants’ union or similar organization… shall be liable for damages which shall not be less than one month’s rent or more than three month’s rent, or the actual damages sustained by the tenant, whichever is greater, and the costs of the suit, including a reasonable attorney’s fee.”
“The receipt of any notice of termination of tenancy, except for nonpayment of rent, or, of increase in rent, or, of any substantial alteration in the terms of tenancy within six months after the tenant has commenced, proceeded with, or obtained relief in such… or within six months after any other person has taken such action or actions on behalf of the tenant or in, or relating to, the building in which the tenant resides, shall create a rebuttable presumption that such notice or other action is a reprisal against the tenant for engaging in such activities. Such presumption shall be rebutted only by clear and convincing evidence that such person’s action was not a reprisal against the tenant and that such person had sufficient independent justification for taking such action, and would have in fact taken such action, in the same manner and at the same time the action was taken, regardless of tenants engaging in, or the belief that tenants had engaged in, activities protected under this section.”