Massachusetts Tenancy Laws: Know them or pay the price!

Has the legal community finally gone too in their mission to support tenants initiating court battles against private landlords leasing multi-family and single family homes in Massachusetts?

Websites claiming to be set up for public service to aid renters in Worcester, MA and surrounding areas and advise them of their rights to protect them from landlords have been alluding to some rather unscrupulous methods recently.

Arming tenants with knowledge of the law and their rights is one thing. Suggesting that they band together to block rent increases or use underhanded tactics to withhold rent and hold rental units for ransom is quite another. Unfortunately, this seems just like what is being done.

The Risks Landlords Face When Initiating Rent Increases

Mass. landlords need to be very careful when approaching tenants about prospective rent increases or face legal action, being sued and even essentially being blackmailed into keeping rental rates static.

Those leasing single or multifamily properties in and around Worcester need to have a good grip on the law themselves, understand how various types of tenancy affect the ability to raise rents, which forms need to be used when, potential tenant actions and the best strategies for avoiding these situations altogether.

If planning to increase rents it is wise to ensure there is no possible code or sanitation complaints tenants can make or they may use this as an excuse to not only not pay the increase but withhold all rent.

Deciding whose rent to raise and when can also be a complex issue. If raising everyone’s rent simultaneously understand tenants can band together to push back. On the other hand if staggering increases renters can claim it is retaliatory and take you to court. This is becoming even more of an issue as renters are armed with information on how to take preemptive steps, like filing complaints which could make your increases appear to be in retaliation even if they are not.

If you attempt to raise rents even 6 months after an issue like this you may find the courts automatically rule against you.

The best solution is to make sure all tenants agree to increases amicably in writing at least 30 days in advance.

Beware of Charging Late Fees & Filing Eviction Notices

As a landlord you must know when to use the 14 day or 30 day notice or face further trials. However, even when using the right notice recognize that illegally charging late fees or ‘discounts’ can land you in trouble and the chances are you may have to go through a lengthy court battle to actually get them out.

Unfortunately you can’t just refuse to accept rent even after notices are delivered in most cases and just because someone remains in one of your properties beyond their lease does not relieve you of your legal obligations to provide good housing for them under Mass. law. In fact they can still sue you for poor conditions, even if they are not supposed to be there any longer!

Your 4 Point Plan for Protecting Your Income

  1. Know the law and your rights as a property owner
  2. Screen thoroughly
  3. Don’t be an easy victim and don’t flaunt your assets
  4. Hire a full service property management firm to protect and handle everything for you