Warranty of Habitability in Massachusetts

Last Updated: May 5, 2023 by Elizabeth Souza

In Massachusetts, a landlord’s obligation for providing a habitable living space is primarily governed by MA Gen. Law §111-127A. This legal requirement, commonly known as the “implied warranty of habitability,” also outlines the rights of tenants when repairs are not made in a timely manner.

Quick Facts Answer
Landlord Responsibilities Windows/Doors, Roof/Walls, Hot/Cold Water, HVAC, Plumbing, Electrical, Sanitation Facilities, Stairs/Railings, Floors, Fire Exits, Carbon Monoxide/Smoke Detectors.
Time Limit for Repairs “Reasonable” Time (usually within 14 days)
Tenant Recourse Options
  • Withhold Rent: Yes
  • Repair & Deduct: Yes

Applicable Dwelling Types in Massachusetts

The implied warranty of habitability in Massachusetts does not apply to all types of dwellings. See the table below for which are and aren’t included.

Dwelling Type Landlord/Tenant Laws Apply?
Single family Yes
Multi-family Yes
Fraternities/Sororities/Clubs No
RV parks Yes, within certain limits
Mobile home parks Yes, within certain limits
Condos Not specifically addressed
Hotels/Motels No

Landlord Responsibilities in Massachusetts

The following chart lists possible landlord responsibilities when it comes to habitability.  Not all of them are requirements in Massachusetts, as indicated below.

Note: Some of the below items may not be addressed at the state level but may be addressed on a county or city level. Check your local housing codes to see which additional requirements may apply.

Habitability Issue Landlord Responsibility?
Provide windows and doors that are in good repair. Yes
Ensure the roof, walls, etc., are completely waterproofed and there are no leaks. Yes
Provide hot and cold running water. Yes
Provide working HVAC equipment. AC not required
Provide working plumbing and electrical wiring/outlets/ lighting. Yes
Provide working gas lines if used for utilities/cooking Yes
Provide working sanitation facilities (bathtub/shower, toilet). Yes
Provide a trash can (for trash pickup services). Multi-family units only
Ensure that any stairs and railings are safe. Yes
Ensure that all floors are in good condition and safe. Yes
Provide fire exits that are usable, safe, and clean. Yes
Ensure storage areas, including garages and basements, do not house combustible materials. Not addressed
Provide working smoke detectors Yes
Provide a mailbox. Not addressed
Provide working wiring for one telephone jack. Not addressed
Provide working kitchen appliances. Only Stove/Oven
Provide working carbon monoxide detector. Yes
Provide a working washer/dryer. No

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Lead-Based Paint

For any properties built prior to 1978, landlords must provide tenants with a written lead-based paint disclosure prior to signing the lease.

However, the landlord is not required to remove any lead-based paint on the premises unless children under the age of six will be living in the unit.

Kitchen Appliances

Kitchens are required to have the space to install a refrigerator, and the appropriate outlets/water lines for one; however, landlords are not required to provide a refrigerator.

If stoves and ovens are provided (per the terms of the lease), they must be in working order.

In addition, kitchen sinks must be large enough to wash dishes.

Security

Landlords must also provide working locks for all windows and doors, including interior doors, as necessary. Screens in good repair should also be provided for all windows that open and for entry doors that access the outside.

Rodents, Skunks, and Insect Infestations

It’s the landlord’s responsibility to ensure that all rental properties with two or more units are free from rodents, skunks, and insect infestations, including cockroaches.

Mold

Landlords are required to prevent “chronic dampness” in rental units which includes mold.

Snow Removal

Any exit used (or intended to be used) by a tenant of more than one dwelling unit shall be maintained by the landlord free from obstruction.

Repairs, Recourse & Retaliation in Massachusetts

If a rental property is in violation of the implied warranty of habitability in Massachusetts, state laws outline how the repair process works, what tenants can do if repairs aren’t made, and how tenants are protected against retaliating landlords.

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.

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

Massachusetts renters have the right to repairs for issues affecting health and safety, except issues they caused themselves. The landlord gets a “reasonable time” after proper written notice to perform repairs (usually within a maximum of 14 days).

If the issue isn’t fixed, the renter can end the rental agreement, or ask a court to order repairs or compensation. The renter might also repair and deduct, or withhold rent. Read More

Landlord Retaliation in Massachusetts

Massachusetts landlords aren’t allowed to retaliate by substantially changing rental terms against tenants who have taken one of these actions in the past six months:

  • Participating in government actions relating to the tenancy.
  • Asserting rights to gas and electric service.
  • Complaining to landlord or government about mismanagement.
  • Participating in tenant organizations.

Non-retaliatory, good-faith intentions fall under an exception. For example, a proportionate increase in rent following an increase in property tax isn’t retaliatory.

Tenants can respond to retaliation by suing the landlord for damages plus court costs and attorney fees. Retaliation is also a defense against landlord actions like eviction.

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