Massachusetts Landlord and Tenants Rights and Responsibilities

Chapter 111: Section 127A. State sanitary code; adoption; enforcement; jurisdiction; speedy trial 

Landlord Rights and Responsibilities 

Pre-Rental Preparation of the Apartment

Before renting an apartment, you should inspect it completely after the current tenant vacates or near the end of the current tenant’s occupancy to assess any damage, to assure that it is in good repair when attempting to re-rent the apartment, and for the incoming tenant once it has been rented. You are obligated under certain circumstances to have the local Board of Health inspect and verify that the apartment meets State Sanitary Code and safety standards prior to re-renting.

It makes good business sense to do this on all occasions whether required to or not, because anticipating and resolving problems before they become major issues is essential to the smooth, cost-effective and profitable operation of residential property.

Inspector’s Sign-Off Once All Violations Cited Have Been Repaired

Obtain the Inspector’s sign-off once all violations have been corrected. This sign-off also acts as violation-free base line if the tenant should claim there are problems with the apartment after taking occupancy.

Obligation to Delead The Apartment

Whenever a child under the age of six (6) resides in residential premises containing unlawful levels of lead, you are obligated to properly remove the offending substances (M.G.L. c. 111, § 199(a)).

You or your agent are required to give the Massachusetts Lead Law Notification form to tenants regarding the dangers of lead paint, and the requirement to remove lead paint where children under six (6) intend to reside.

Statement of Condition

Either upon receipt of the deposit or within ten (10) days thereafter, you must provide the tenant with a Statement of Condition, which contains a comprehensive list of all then-existing damage to the unit, which list is signed by you or your agent. The notice must inform the tenant that s/he must sign the list within fifteen (15) days of receipt or move-in, if it is correct. You must further inform the tenant that failure to re-submit the list may allow a court to view the tenant’s failure to sign as agreement to the completeness of the landlord’s proposed Statement of Condition. You then have fifteen (15) days to sign off on the tenant’s list of damages or send a clear statement of disagreement to the tenant. Although there are forms available for these purposes, it is recommended that an attorney or other real estate professional be consulted when taking a security deposit.

Duty to Provide Habitable Premises

You must provide habitable apartments and common areas for the entire tenancy in accordance with the minimum standards of the State Sanitary Code which seeks to protect the health, safety, and well-being of your tenants and the general public.

Heat: Landlords must provide a heating system for each apartment or one system that services all apartments in good working order. The landlord must pay for the fuel to provide heat and hot water and electricity unless the written rental agreement states that the tenant must pay for these. The heating season runs from September 16 through June 14th, during which every room must be heated to between 68˚F and not more than 78˚F between 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., and at least 64˚F at all other hours.

Kitchens: In each kitchen landlords must provide a sink sufficient for washing dishes and kitchen utensils, stove and oven in good working order, unless the written rental agreement states the tenant must provide this, and electrical hook-ups for installation of a refrigerator. The landlord is not required to provide a refrigerator, but if s/he does, it must be maintained by the landlord in good working order.

Water: If the landlord meets certain legal requirements then they may charge a new tenant for water consumption by installing a water meter for the unit. Landlords should be reminded that they are still responsible for payment of the water and sewer bills and must bill their tenants separately. Before installing separate water meters, landlords must contact the Massachusetts Department of Public Health for required forms. Landlords must still provide the facilities for heating water to a temperature between 110˚F and 130˚F and must pay for this fuel unless the written tenancy agreement states that the tenant must pay for it.

Infestation: Landlords must maintain the common areas and apartments free from rodent, insect and other infestation if there are two or more apartments in the building.

Structural Elements: Landlords must maintain the foundation, floors, walls, doors, windows, ceilings, roof, stairwells, porches, chimneys and all structural elements so as to exclude wind, rain, and snow; so as to be rodent-proof, weather tight, watertight, and free of chronic dampness, in good repair and fit for human habitation at all times.

Maintenance of Exits: Each exit used or intended for use by the building’s occupants must be maintained by you and kept free of all snow, trash and other obstructions.

Tenant Rights and Responsibilities

Habitability Rights

You are entitled to a safe and habitable living environment throughout your entire tenancy. The State Sanitary Code protects the health, safety and well-being of tenants and the general public (105 CMR 410). The local Boards of Health enforce the Code. (Note: In Boston, it is the Housing Inspection Department.) Copies of the Code may be purchased from the State House Bookstore, State House, Room 116, Boston, MA 02133, (617) 727-2834.

The following is a sampling of provisions outlined in the Code:

Water: The landlord must provide you with enough water, with adequate pressure, to meet your ordinary needs. Under certain limited circumstances, you can be charged for water costs so long as it is clearly noted in your written rental agreement and there is a separate meter for your unit. The landlord must also provide the facilities to heat the water at a temperature between 110º F and 130º F, however your written tenancy agreement or lease may require you to pay for and provide the fuel to heat the water.

Heat: The landlord must provide a heating system in good working order. The landlord must pay for the heat, unless your lease requires you to pay for it. From September 16 to June 14, every room must be heated to at least 68º F between 7:00 AM and 11 PM, and at least 64º F at all other hours. During the heating season, the maximum heat allowable in the apartment is 78º F.

Kitchens: The landlord must provide within the kitchen: a sink of sufficient size and capacity for washing dishes and kitchen utensils, a stove and oven in good repair (unless your written lease requires you to provide your own), and space and proper facilities for the installation of a refrigerator. The landlord does not have to provide a refrigerator. If a refrigerator is provided, however, the landlord must keep it in working order.

Cockroaches and Rodents: The landlord must maintain the unit free from rodents, cockroaches, and insect infestation, if there are two or more apartments in the building.

Structural Elements: Every landlord must maintain the foundation, floors, walls, doors, windows, ceilings, roof, staircases, porches, chimneys, and other structural elements of the dwelling so that it excludes wind, rain, and snow; is rodent-proof, weathertight, watertight, and free from chronic dampness; in good repair, and in every way fit for its intended use.

Snow Removal: Every exit used or intended for use by occupants of more than one dwelling unit or rooming unit shall be maintained free from obstruction.

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