Customize a Massachusetts residential lease agreement (above) and read further about required disclosures in Massachusetts, optional addendums for things like pets, and what Massachusetts landlord-tenant laws apply to residential lease agreements.
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What is a Month-to-Month Residential Lease Agreement?
The month-to-month residential lease is an agreement between a landlord and a tenant for one month of residency. This type of lease is automatically renewed each month unless terminated by the landlord or tenant in accordance with state regulations. While it is not legally advised, if there is no verbal or written residential lease agreement, it is implied to operate on a month-to-month basis.
The month-to-month lease allows for a more dynamic relationship between the landlord and tenant. It provides a level of flexibility to alter lease terms as long as state regulations for providing notice of these alterations are followed. This type of arrangement is beneficial to landlords because with proper notice, they can change the rent amount on a unit without waiting for a fixed lease term to end. From a tenant’s perspective, a month-to-month lease is an appealing option to those who plan to live in a unit for a short time or are unsure of what their future holds.
When entering into a rental agreement, sometimes a full-fledged fixed-term lease can be more trouble than it’s worth thanks to the sometimes restrictive lease term that usually cannot be broken without penalties. When a prospective renter or landlord wants an arrangement that’s a bit more freeing, then they sometimes consider an at-will lease, which is more colloquially known as a month-to-month lease.
These leases are great for anyone that needs a bit more freedom. Unlike a fixed-term rental agreement, an at-will lease lasts only a single month, and at the start of the next, the lease will automatically renew. This happens into perpetuity unless either the landlord or the renter decides that he or she wants to vacate the premises. While a month-to-month isn’t quite as stable as a standard lease, this type of rental agreement can definitely provide options for a variety of situations. In the commonwealth of Massachusetts, both the tenant and the landlord must provide ample warning when leaving the premises, which amounts to 30 days’ worth of notice.
There are a few drawbacks to a lease like this as well. For example, at-will leases tend to demand a higher rent level as a result of increased risk for the landlord. Also, thanks to the nature of the tenancy, a landlord or his or her tenant doesn’t really have to give a reason for vacating the premises, which can leave the other party flat-footed.
Still, some of the benefits can definitely outweigh these foibles. Here’s a couple of reasons that both parties can find an agreement like this to be advantageous:
- It’s great for areas with varying levels of housing demand: For areas with seasonal vacancies, a month-to-month tenancy can be very useful. For the landlord, he or she can dwell on the property for the majority of the year, and when demand increases, he or she can rent the property to temporary tenants using one of these leases for higher than the market value of the property. This presents some great opportunities for profit.
- Rent can be increased often: As mentioned, these rentals tend to cost a bit more for a tenant, and since the lease virtually renews every month, the landlord can opt to raise the rent at the end of any lease period. The tenant will have a month to decide if the new rate is amenable, but if he or she doesn’t like the new rates, they will have the month to leave.
- It’s stress-free: Sometimes, it can be a bit annoying having to track lease renewals and various lease-related processes. It’s almost as if both the landlord and his or her renters can be lazy with an at-will lease; there’s very little upkeep, and these can actually have longer terms than standard leases.
- It’s easier to find a home: People want to live in their ideal properties, and these documents allow for a renter to shop around while still having a place to stay. When the ideal property comes around, the renter can simply break the lease and move in when it’s convenient.
Creating a Month to Month Lease Agreement in Massachusetts
While these can feel like effortless leases in which to use, it’s still critical to understand that these are still legally-binding documents. Month-to-month arrangements can be done without the paperwork, but these are much less valid in the courts should the untoward occur. For this reason, it’s essential that one of these documents is has all of the needed sections. These should include the following.
Information for the Lessee and the Lessor
Like a standard lease, it’s critical that the parties are firmly identified. The start of the document should have the full names of both the landlord and the tenant. Ideally, this should include the middle initial or the full middle names for both of these individuals. If there is a management company involved in the at-will lease, then their information can also be included.
Information for the Property
Additionally, the agreement should include identifying information for the property as well. This means that the physical address, any identifying numbers for the unit or the building, any side streets, the county, and the zip code are all great pieces of info to include.
Like with any other rental agreement, rent must be paid in an orderly and timely fashion so that there is a pleasant relationship between the parties. To facilitate this, this section should clearly note the precise value of the rent so that the tenant knows how much he or she owes on a monthly basis. Also, if there is any special procedure for paying the rent, it should be outlined here.
Information about the Security Deposit
The commonwealth of Massachusetts has fairly exacting laws when it comes to the security deposit, even for at-will tenancies. First, the landlord cannot legally charge more than a month’s worth of rent for the security deposit. Second, once it’s collected, the landlord must disclose the banking institution where the fee is being held. Finally, if the security deposit is used for repairs, the landlord must report this within 10 days of the renter moving out. If there are no damages, then the commonwealth allows for the landlord to take up to a month to return the deposit to his or her former renter. All of these pieces of information will need to be included in the agreement.
During the term of a tenancy, some tenants may yearn for companionship and adopt an animal. The lease agreement for the month-to-month tenancy will need to specify the property’s rules on animals so that the tenant understands. Not every property accepts animals, and those that do may have fees and specific rules about keeping animals on the property. The lease needs to state these rules very clearly and concisely so that there is no confusion.
Cars and Parking
In the state of Massachusetts, driving is relatively common. As a result, many properties provide dedicated parking spaces and lots for their tenants. In fact, good parking can be a major draw for some properties. For those units that come with assigned parking, the lease should include pertinent details like snow removal policies as well as the location of the parking spot assigned to the tenant. This section can also leave a space for the tenant to describe his or her vehicle by leaving the make and model. With this information on file, the landlord can easily know which cars belong on the property so that vehicles aren’t accidentally towed.
Tenant Expectations and Terms
One of the most important sections of an at-will lease is the terms section. This section establishes both tenant expectations and the terms that the tenant must understand in order to dwell on the property, even in a month-to-month tenancy. This section is particularly important in those circumstances when one of the parties runs afoul of the established terms since this will serve as a legal record. Here are a few parts to cover:
- Noise policies: For the happiness of all of the residents, there should be firm policies on noise in the unit. For example, many properties establish quiet times that expressly forbid loud conversations, parties, or the movement of furniture past certain times of the night.
- Policies about preexisting furnishings: Since these can be temporary dwellings, sometimes, these units come pre-furnished. Sometimes, the lease agreement can establish that the security deposit can be used to replace damaged furnishings, but the document should also clearly state what furnishings come with the tenancy. This can help the tenant understand what goes with them when they do vacate the premises.
- Common area upkeep: How a property appears is critical to its ability to bring in new renters, so the rental agreement should firmly establish the property’s policies on upkeep of the common areas. Trash and personal items should be kept out of the main common areas, and this section should also explicitly lay out things like trash days and policies on loitering.
- Policies on abandonment: All rental property owners want to avoid vacant units, but with such a relatively easygoing rental arrangement like an at-will lease, sometimes a property can become abandoned without much notice. For the sake of tenant turnaround, there needs to be a section in the lease that establishes the procedures a landlord can use to determine if a property has been abandoned so that he or she can seek out new renters.
- Signage policies: When it’s been established that a tenant is intending to vacate, a landlord may want to search for new tenants. For this reason, there should be a section of the lease that establishes when a landlord may begin posting signage to find new tenants.
The final section of the document will be the section where the two parties sign their consent. For this section, not only will the signature of the lessee and lessor be required, but they will also be required to print their name and date the document.