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Massachusetts Leases and Rental Agreements Laws

The relationship between landlords and tenants is regulated at the state level, through lease and rental agreement laws. Typically, these laws place limits on how much of a security deposit a landlord may require and which types of discrimination are prohibited. Massachusetts lease and rental agreement laws require interest on deposits required at 5% from the first day of tenancy if the landlord has held deposit for one year. Security deposits must be returned within 30 days.

See the following summary chart and elaboration below it to learn more about Massachusetts' lease and rental agreement laws. See FindLaw's Rental and Lease Agreements section for additional articles and resources.

Code Section Ch. 151B §4; Ch. 186 §15B
Terms of Leases Payment and acceptance of rent create tenancy at will (Staples v. Collins, 73 N.E.2d 729 (1947)); certain acts/conduct may negate this presumption (Corcoran Management Co., Ins. v. Withers, 513 N.E.2d 218)
Deposits Limit 1 month rent; interest on deposit required at 5% from first day of tenancy if landlord has held deposit for one year; deposit must be returned within 30 days
Discrimination No discrimination on basis of race, religious creed, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, ancestry, marital status, member of armed forces, handicapped in any multiple dwelling, contiguously located housing accommodations or publicly assisted dwellings
Uniform Residential Landlord & Tenant Act Adopted? No

Illegal Discrimination under Federal Law

The Federal Fair Housing Act places restrictions on the qualities landlords and home sellers can use when deciding who to place in a residence. No one can do any off the following based on race, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability:

  • Refuse to rent a house or apartment
  • Refuse to sell a house or apartment
  • Refuse to negotiate for housing
  • Make housing unavailable
  • Make different conditions for sale or rental
  • Provide different types of services for housing or rentals
  • Falsely deny that a house or apartment is available
  • Persuade owners to sell or rent a house
  • Deny services or membership in a facility or service

This means that a landlord cannot charge more rent for an apartment to a person who needs the apartment to be handicap accessible. As well, a home seller cannot refuse to sell a home to a large family in a community that may not want children playing in the neighborhood. Landlords also cannot refuse to rent an apartment to a couple because they are unmarried.

Illegal Discrimination under Massachusetts Law

Massachusetts also makes it illegal to discriminate in the same ways that the federal Fair Housing Act forbids. Some additional methods of improper discrimination include: refusals to make reasonable accommodations to dwellings in order to improve access for someone with a disability, and refusals to make changes in rules and policies in order to allow better accessibility for a disabled person.

Limits on Deposits

In Massachusetts, deposits for rented apartments or houses are limited to one month's rent. If the deposit is held for one year, the landlord must pay interest on the deposit, at a rate of at least 5%. Deposits must also be returned within 30 days of the tenant vacating the dwelling.

If you would like to know more about your rights and obligations when renting, there are many landlord-tenant attorneys throughout Massachusetts who may be able to help. In addition to answering your questions about landlord-tenant law, they may be able to help you recover improperly held deposits, or enforce discrimination laws.

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