Grab our free sample or generate an official Massachusetts lease agreement for residential use. Read further about required disclosures in Massachusetts, optional addendums for things like pets, and what Massachusetts landlord tenant laws apply to residential lease agreements.
Lease Agreement Sample
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Residential lease agreements in Massachusetts should include the only universally required Massachusetts-specific disclosure: fire insurance. Additionally, refer to municipality codes to ensure compliance with any other special requirements. For units built prior to 1978, landlords are also federally required to include a disclosure about lead-based paint as an attachment to the lease agreement.
Quick Facts for Massachusetts
No limit — usually one year
Max Security Deposit
Up to one month’s rent
Who Needs to Sign
Landlord, all tenants, and all co-signers or guarantors
Lead-based paint & insurance
Legal Early Termination
Beyond written mutual consent, a tenant can break their lease without penalty in Massachusetts if they’re starting active military duty, the unit is considered uninhabitable, the tenant is a civtim of domestic violence, or the landlord violates their privacy rights. In these cases, the landlord must make reasonable effort to re-rent the unit. A landlord may break a lease in Massachusetts for a number of reasons, including not paying rent, violating the lease or rental agreement, or committing an illegal act. Before breaking a lease, the landlord must first serve the tenant written notice.
Addendums to Consider
Pets, Utility Allocation, Mold, Criminal Activity, & Marijuana Use (marijuana is legal for medical use & recreational use in Massachusetts)
What is a Residential Lease Agreement?
A residential lease is a legally binding agreement between a landlord and a tenant who intends to rent a specific property. It is an all-inclusive document created to outline the expectations of both parties and address any special circumstances that may arise during the length of the agreement. It also clearly states the potential consequences for not adhering to the stated terms. For maximum legal credibility, it is critical that this document be produced in writing, reviewed and signed by both parties prior to occupancy.
Before reviewing and signing a residential lease agreement, a landlord will likely ask a potential tenant to complete an application form to begin a background and credit check. If these assessments are met with approval, then the process of renting the property may continue. Applicable rent, security deposits and fees will be paid by the tenant, and the residential lease will be signed by both parties. The tenant may take occupancy on the date indicated in the residential lease.
So, again, just so we’re on the same page:
A residential lease agreement is a contract between a landlord and a tenant for the use of property for a fixed period in exchange for regular payments. By contrast, a rental agreement has no fixed period, and as a result, is usually month-to-month (read more).
Let’s now go through what you need to include in a residential lease agreement template in Massachusetts. This includes:
- Basic/universal elements – these are applicable to ALL states, not just Massachusetts.
- Massachusetts-specific required disclosures – there is 1, plus 1 other conditional federal disclosure.
- Applicable Law – other legalities you should be aware of.
Basic Elements of Massachusetts Residential Lease Agreements
The following sections are necessary elements for a residential lease. Each section contains information that pertains specifically to lease agreements in Massachusetts. All rental properties are unique, and it is important for the landlord to tailor their residential lease to the unit or property being rented. This guide lists various circumstances for landlords to consider as they are drafting a residential lease agreement. Landlords need to include the components listed here to be legally compliant in the state of Massachusetts.
This is a lease (the “Lease”) […] between (Name of owner of the property) (“Landlord”) and (Name of person(s) to whom the property is leased) (“Tenant”), made this day of (Date).
TERM. The lease will be for a term of (Number of months) beginning on (Start date) and ending on (End date).
PREMISES. The premises is a (Type of dwelling i.e. house, apartment, etc.) located at (Address of rental property). The following features are included on the property (List of amenities).
RENT & UTILITIES. Tenants will pay a monthly rent of (Rent amount) on the (Day) of each month. Tenants are responsible for utilities including (List of utilities).
In the state of Massachusetts, the first thing that you should see on the document to introduce the lease is the date that the agreement goes into effect. After the date is stated on the document, then the parties that will be involved in the arrangement will need to be listed. This will include the full name of the tenant and the landlord.
If there is going to be more than one tenant staying in the unit, then their names should be included as well. Not all tenants will need to be added to the lease, but anyone whose income was used to determine whether the tenants were a good choice for the unit or not will need to be listed in the document. In addition to the first and last names, the middle initial and a working phone number for each of the tenants will need to be included as well.
For the landlord, make sure to include a phone number to reach them and the management company. If there is a separate location where the management company can be reached, then the address should be listed here as well, especially if this is the location where the tenant will need to drop off the rent payment.
After the information on the parties is complete, this section will need to include the location of the unit that is being rented. Make sure to include the full address that will be used for mailing purposes as well as any identifying features that can be used.
Terms of the Agreement and Limits of Occupancy
The next section that should be covered in this agreement is the actual terms of the lease. These are the specifics of the rental that both the tenants and the landlord will need to agree upon before they sign the document. Also, the type of unit that the tenant has requested should be listed in this section as well and whether the unit is available for them to use at this time. If they have requested a three-bedroom unit, but there are only two bedrooms available at this time, they may decide to rent a two-bedroom unit until one becomes vacant.
In the state of Massachusetts, the landlord and the tenant are required to do a walkthrough of the property to create a list of items that need to be fixed or repaired before the tenant moves in. This should include the condition of the carpet, the appliances, and the overall unit. Not every unit that is rented in this area is going to have a dishwasher, a dryer, and a washer, so if this unit does have them, the condition of these appliances as well as the stove and microwave will need to be addressed.
Sometimes a landlord will limit the number of tenants that can stay in a unit based upon the number of bedrooms that the space has. This will not matter when it comes to guests, but having a person live in the unit that is not on the lease that put the occupants above the suggested amount could be an issue with the landlord. If there are any rules that the tenant will need to be aware of so that they are not breaking the terms of the lease, then they should be listed in this section.
Rent and Utilities
Next, the amount of rent that the tenant will need to pay each month will need to be discussed. The date that the rent is due as well as the date that it will be considered late each month will need to be included. If there is a late fee that the tenant will be responsible for paying when their rent is late, the amount that they will be charged should be written in this section of the document. Make sure to include how the landlord should receive the rent payment. Is the tenant to mail it or drop it off at a specific location? If they are to drop it off, make sure to include the address in this section as well.
When a tenant is late paying their rent continuously, they may be asked to take care of the rent payments with a bank check or a money order so that the landlord can make sure that they are not receiving bad checks. This section should also consider the steps that the tenant needs to follow in order to renew their lease. In the commonwealth of Massachusetts, many of the rental properties will have an automatic renewal process that can be followed. If there is anything that the tenant needs to be aware of during this process to make sure they have a place to live, it needs to be listed in this section as well.
In addition to rent, the utilities that are used in the unit will need to be paid by the tenant as well. Some landlords will opt to take care of certain utilities like the electric or cable, but this is not always the case. When the landlord does take care of some of the utilities, they will need to be listed in this section as well.
One of the expenses that many tenants forget about is parking. This is especially important when renting property that is near a city where parking may be scarce. Sometimes a landlord may have a garage or a parking lot where they are able to reserve a space for a specific tenant. Some landlords will charge a small fee for a designated spot, but if this is the case, it should be listed in this section as well.
Security Deposits and Fees
When it comes to security deposits in the commonwealth of Massachusetts, state law provides that a landlord may only charge the value of the first month’s rent for a security deposit. The landlord is also required to keep the security deposit in a separate account from the assets held by the landlord or the management company (MGL c. 186, § 15B). The security deposit is designed specifically to help the landlord recoup the value of any damages to the property that may have occurred during a tenancy, and any amount gone unused must be returned within 30 days to the tenant, which can include the full amount if there was no property damage.
If there are no repairs that need to be taken care of, the landlord will be required to return the security deposit and any accrued interest from the time that the money was in the landlord’s account. According to chapter 186, section 15B, this should be a minimum of 5% in this state. If any of the security deposit needs to be used, an itemized list should be sent to the tenant at a forwarding address if one has been provided.
If a unit is vacant, and the tenant has requested to move in before the actual lease begins, the landlord may decide to offer a partial month to the tenant. This will not be part of the lease, but the additional amount that is agreed upon will be due with the initial payment. Don’t forget about additional expenses like parking, storage, and other things that will be required with a rental unit.
Maintenance, Alterations, and Repairs
In the state of Massachusetts, the landlord and the tenant are required to walk through the unit before it is rented out to makes sure that there is nothing in the unit that needs to be repaired or taken care of before the tenant moves into the unit. This will allow the tenant to see is there are drastic repairs that need to be done as well as to see if there is anything that needs to be replaced.
Once the walkthrough is complete, there can be an itemized list that is written in this document as well that the landlord is to take care of before they get their first rent payment for the unit. If the unit does not have maintenance or repairs that need to be taken care of, then it needs to be stated in this section as well.
As the tenant lives in the unit, it is likely going to need some type of maintenance as time progresses. This could mean things like painting the walls, updating the appliances, and simply maintaining the property before things break. In most cases, the landlord will take care of this type of maintenance, but if the landlord expects the tenant to do it, it needs to be listed in this section of the document as well. In addition, if there are steps that the tenant needs to follow in order to get the landlord to work on the unit, these steps should be included in the document.
Alterations are another aspect of any unit that will need to be considered. Tenants may wish to change some of the current things in the unit when they move in. This could make the design more appealing, it could be to use more eco-friendly appliances, or it could be to add security to the home. Many tenants like to change the lock or add a second lock to the door so that they know who has the key to their unit. Many landlords will permit this change as long as the new key is provided to them so that they can have access if they need it.
Access to the Property
When the landlord needs to do repairs in any unit in Massachusetts, they are required to provide the tenant with reasonable notice before they use their key to enter the premises. Entry is not permitted for any other reason without the tenant being home or the entry of the unit being discussed with them beforehand. In most situations, a tenant will try to make themselves available at the time that the landlord needs access to the unit, especially if they have enough notice.
When a tenant is a pet owner, one of the most important things that they will want to know before signing a lease is whether or not their pet will be welcomed in their new home. Not all rental properties will allow pets in their units, and some will have rules and regulations that the tenants must follow in order to have a pet. If the landlord limits the type of pet or the breed of pets that are allowed in the unit, it must be listed in this section of the document.
No one wants to sign a rental agreement that they are locked into for a year or two and then find out that their pets cannot come with them. Pets are a part of the tenant’s family, so make sure that everything that pertains to pets living on the property is included in the agreement. This should also include limitations on the number of pets that can live in a single unit.
Sometimes a landlord that allows pets will require the tenant to pay a small pet fee for the animals to remain in the unit. This could be an amount that is charged one time at the beginning of the residency. If the fee is charged like this, it will be used like a security deposit, which means that it will be held until the unit is vacant so that it can be used to repair any damage that was caused by the pets. The other type of fee that a landlord can charge is one that will be charged once a month. This is basically a small amount that the landlord can use to do repairs as well, but it is collected monthly as long as the tenant lives in the unit.
Check out our sample of a pet addendum below.
This Addendum is made on [ DATE ] between [ LANDLORD’S NAME ] (Landlord) and [ TENANT’S NAME ] (Tenant), and is understood to modify the Residential Lease for [ PROPERTY ADDRESS ] originally dated [ DATE ].
The landlord grants permission to the tenant to keep the domesticated pet(s) on the premises during the term of the lease agreement (INCLUDE LEASE START AND END DATE). The landlord may revoke permission at any time if the tenant fails to comply with any of the terms and conditions in the lease or following addendums.
2. SERVICE ANIMALS
Service, Guide, Signal, or Support animals are not “Pets” according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as long as the animal is being used by the tenant to support a disability or handicap, or if the tenant is training the animal(s).
If the tenant’s pet actually a Certified Service Animal or in training to be a Certified Service Animal? : _______ Yes _______ No
3. ANIMAL PROFILE
Type of Animal(s): Dog, Cat, Bird, Rabbit, Pig, Reptile, Fish (circle all that apply)
Name of Animal(s): ________________________
Weight of Animal(s): ______________________ (lbs.)
Breed of Animals(s): ______________________
Age of Animal(s): ________________________
Spayed or Neutered?: __________ Yes _______ No
Current on Vaccinations?: _______ Yes _______ No
Valid Animal Licenses?: _________ Yes _______ No
Legal Restrictions and Rules
With any type of rental unit, there are going to be a few legal restrictions that will need to be covered in the rental agreement. In the state of Massachusetts, these will include
Lead-Based Paint Hazards
This isn’t Louisiana-specific, but if the unit being rented out was built before 1978, the landlord is required to do the following 3 things:
- Provide the tenant with an EPA-approved pamphlet about the dangers of lead-based paint (see latest pamphlet PDFs here).
- Disclose any known information concerning lead-based paint in the unit (i.e. its location, condition, etc.), and include any records or reports about the paint or its hazards. For multi-unit buildings with common areas, this includes information from building-wide evaluations.
- Fill out and attach this disclosure form to the lease.
In the state of Massachusetts, the landlord must inform the tenant about the type of fire insurance that they have on the property. This will provide the tenant with the terms and the conditions of the insurance policy so that they can follow them while living on the premises.
Section 21. The landlord or lessor of any residential or commercial property, upon the written request of any tenant or lawful occupant, of any code or other law enforcement official or of any official of the municipality in which the property is situated, shall disclose in writing within fifteen days of such request the name of the company insuring the property against loss or damage by fire and the amount of insurance provided by each such company and the name of any person who would receive payment for a loss covered by such insurance. Whoever violates the provisions of this section shall be punished by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars. A waiver of this section in any lease or other rental agreement shall be void and unenforceable. (Massachusetts General Laws Part II, Title I, Chapter 186, Section 21)
Other Disclosures to Consider in Massachusetts
- Quiet Time: When a rental unit is in a community where there are a lot of other tenants, the landlord will put rules into effect to make sure that it is quiet on the property late at night. This is to make sure that all of the tenants can get their sleep without it being disturbed. The regulations often prevent tenants from moving furniture and having loud company after a certain time. Make sure the quiet time for the neighborhood is clearly listed.
- Snow Removal: Since this is the state of Massachusetts, it is very likely that snow will fall every year. This means that there are going to be rules and regulations about the property that will need to be followed when snowfalls. This could include how the walkways are cleared as well as what tenants should do with their vehicles so that the parking area can be plowed. Make sure all of the information that has to do with snowfall in the community is in the document.
The last section that should be addressed in the residential lease agreement will need to be the signature section. This is where the tenants will sign the document as well as the landlord. Both parties will need to sign and date the document as well as print their full legal name that was used at the beginning of the document. If the landlord has requested that a guarantor is used for this rental agreement, then their signature and the date will be needed as well. This will indicate that all of the information in the document is correct, and the landlord has permission to contact the guarantor if the tenant falls behind on their rent payments.
Breaking a Lease in Massachusetts
Sometimes, breaking a lease is required thanks to various life factors, and if the tenant has a fixed-term lease, then this can open them up to penalties. Standard leases tend to have a term of six months to a year, but when a lease has to be broken, there are a few ways to avoid repercussions. These include when a tenant is starting active military duty, when the rental unit is unsafe or has violated safety codes, when the landlord has violated the privacy rights of the tenant, or when the tenant is the victim of domestic violence. Based on commonwealth landlord rights, the landlord is required to mitigate damages when a tenant breaks the lease. This means that the landlord should start the process of finding a new tenant. For a tenant to avoid issues, he or she can also attempt to provide the landlord with a replacement tenant who is qualified. If there is no attainable replacement, the tenant who has not fulfilled one of the aforementioned exceptions may be charged the remainder of the rent owed for the lease.
Eviction Process in Massachusetts
Landlords wishing to evict a tenant may do so when the tenant has violated the lease, has done illicit drugs on the property, has violated the noise rules of the lease, or has harassed his or her neighbors. Failure to pay rent is considered a violation of the lease rules and is grounds for eviction. Commonwealth law states that eviction cannot be used as retaliation, and it’s strictly forbidden for a landlord to change the locks, turn off the utilities, or remove the doors of a tenant’s unit. To start the process, the landlord must send a 14-day notice to quit, which allows the tenant to pay the outstanding rent. If there is a trial and the judge rules against the tenant, then the landlord can hire a constable and a moving company to evict the renter.
Additional Legal Considerations in Massachusetts
- Subletting – A tenant shall not assign a lease agreement, sub-let, or give any license to anyone to use the property without the prior consent of the landlord in writing. Prior approval doesn’t imply consent to future assignments. If a tenant assigns, sub-lets, or grants a license to use the property without permission, the landlord may void the lease agreement.
- Injury liabilities – a landlord shall not be liable for damage or injury to the tenant, the tenant’s guests, family members, or other persons the tenant invites to the property.
- Military discrimination – When offering a property for rent, a landlord shall not discriminate against a service member.
- Entry devices – The door locks, roof, walls, or windows shall not be removed unless it is required for maintenance or repair.
- Displaying a U.S. flag – A tenant has a right to display a United States flag respectfully regardless of whether there is a provision in the lease agreement concerning flags. The displayed flag is to be portable, removable, plastic or cloth, and not larger than 4 and 1/2 feet by 6 feet.