Executive Office of Consumer Affairs One Ashburton Place
Room 1411, Boston, Massachusetts 02108 PH: (617) 727-7780 


Jane Swift, Acting Governor

M.G.L. = Massachusetts General Laws;
c., sec. = Chapter and Section;
CMR = Code of Massachusetts Regulations.

This pamphlet contains only a summary of your rights as a tenant.

FINDING AN APARTMENT

Finder's Fee: A fee for the purpose of finding an apartment (finder's fee, registration fee or commission) may be collected by a licensed real estate broker or salesperson only. The fee's purpose, the amount and the date due should be disclosed to the prospective tenant prior to any transaction. The amount of the fee is a contractual agreement between the licensed broker or salesperson and the prospective tenant. There is no set amount. (M.G.L., c. 112 $87 DDD-1/2) Note: At the beginning of a tenancy, a landlord is limited to collecting first and last month's rent, one month's security deposit and key deposit (M.G.L., c. 186, $15B).This may imply that a landlord cannot collect a finder's fee for his/her own apartment.

Right Against Unlawful Discrimination: Under federal law, it is unlawful to refuse rental of any apartment because of race or color (42 USC $1982). Under state law, it is also unlawful to refuse rental of any apartment because of dependence upon public or rental assistance. Except in owner-occupied 2-family dwellings, the Massachusetts Fair Housing Law also prohibits discrimination against any person because of religion, national origin, age, ancestry, military background or service, sex, marital status, blindness, deafness, or the need of a guide dog (M.G.L. c. 151B sec 4). It is also generally unlawful to refuse to rent to adults with children, but there are exceptions to this rule.

This is only a summary of your rights; there may be other rules and exceptions. For more information, contact the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination and/or the Fair Housing Office in your community.

TYPES OF TENANCY

A Tenant with a Lease is one who signs a lease to rent a particular apartment for a specified time period. A lease, or rental contract between the landlord (lessor)and the tenant (lessee), is a written document which legally binds both parties. The tenant is obligated to pay a stated rent at a given interval, usually monthly, in return for a safe and habitable apartment.

A Tenant-at-Will is one who occupies a rented premises without a lease but pays rent periodically (typically monthly). The agreement for the Tenancy-at-Will may be either written or verbal. Either the landlord or tenant may terminate this arrangement by giving written notice 30 days or one full rental period in advance, whichever is longer. No reason is required to terminate. If rent is paid the first of each month, notice should be given prior to the first day of the month. However, either the landlord or the tenant may be able to give notice as late as the first day of the month itself. For extra protection send the notice both by certified mail, return receipt-requested, and by regular mail.

A Rooming or Boarding House Tenancy is different from the two other types of tenancies. Termination notices vary depending on the length of tenancy:





Length Notice Required 


<30 days None30-90 days


7 days>3 months 30 days 

(*Exception: The landlord is only required to give a 7-day notice if tenant is disorderly or bothersome to other tenants OR if tenant pays weekly.)

After three months of tenancy, the rooming house tenant is considered a tenant-at-will and afforded all rights of a tenant-at-will.

Rent Increases: If an apartment is either rent controlled or publicly subsidized, the landlord cannot increase the rent without receiving prior approval of the local Rent Control Board or the proper housing authority, respectively. Rent for a Tenant with a Lease can be increased only when the lease term expires. Rent for a Tenant-at-Will can be raised only when both parties agree to the increase. However, if you do not agree to it, the landlord can have you evicted. If your landlord wants to raise your rent, s/he must send you proper legal notice terminating your current tenancy. This notice may contain an offer to remain in the apartment for the increased rent. You must receive this notice at least one full rental period, but not less than 30 days, before it becomes effective. The rental increase may be any amount the landlord wishes to charge, and s/he may increase the rent as often as s/he wishes, provided that proper notice is given each time the rent is increased.

Note: Some cities or towns (e.g., Boston) allow rental increase limited to the increase in the Consumer Price Index for elderly, handicapped and low/moderate income tenants. Check with your local housing authority or rent control board to see if this applies to your city or town.

Rights Against Retaliation: Although the landlord of a Tenant-at-Will can terminate the tenancy or raise the rent without reason, s/he cannot do so in response to the tenant's exercising his or her legal rights. If the landlord tries to raise your rent, terminate or otherwise change your tenancy within six months of when you contact the Board of Health, join a tenants' organization, or exercise other legal rights, the landlord's action will be considered retaliation against you. Unless the landlord can prove that s/he is changing the tenancy for reasons other than your having exercised your rights, the landlord will not be able to raise the rent, change or terminate the tenancy. While the law does offer this protection, be aware that the landlord may attempt to retaliate against you.

Late Payment Penalty: Tenants should pay rent on time. The landlord can't charge any interest or a penalty until 30 days after the due date. However, the landlord can begin the eviction process immediately - even if the rent is only one day overdue. (M.G.L., c. 186,sec 15B). The landlord also cannot use a reverse penalty clause to encourage tenants to pay early. For example, it is illegal for a landlord who charges $400 per month to reduce the rent by 10% if the rent is paid within the first five days of the month.

Termination vs. Eviction: Termination is different from eviction. Termination is the ending of your rental agreement or lease. Either the landlord or tenant can initiate the termination of the tenancy. Eviction is the forced removal of a tenant from an apartment after termination. Eviction can only be ordered by a judge. The landlord cannot lock you out or throw you out of your apartment. (See section on Eviction)

Before Agreeing to Tenancy (or Signing a Lease) . . .

  • Do not put down any money unless you are sure you want the apartment. Though you may be legally entitled to your money up until the time the landlord formally accepts you as a tenant, practically speaking, that money may be difficult to recover.
  • Calculate the anticipated cost of utilities (i.e., heat,electricity) based on actual usage. You must be able to pay the total cost of rent plus utilities;
  • Know what is expected of you in terms of prepayments(e.g., last month's rent, security deposit, key deposit) or finder's fee;
  • Check the apartment to ensure that it is in acceptable condition. Confer with the landlord/management company regarding any repairs to be made. Any agreements should be put in writing.
  • Check with the landlord to see if subletting is allowed. In most cases, leases have a provision for subletting with the landlord's permission. If the lease does not permit subletting, and you sublet, you could be sued for breaking the lease.
  • Evaluate the ease of contact and the response record of a non- resident superintendent to "after hours" emergencies.
  • Talk with prospective neighbors concerning the competency and reputation of the landlord and/or management company.

Types of Tenancy Agreements:

Written Rental Agreements: According to state consumer protection regulations (940 CMR 3.17(3b)), a landlord must include the following in a written rental agreement:

  • The names, addresses and telephone numbers of the owners and any other persons who are responsible for the care, maintenance and repair of the property;
  • The name, address and telephone number of the person authorized to receive notices of violations of law and to accept notice of lawsuit on behalf of the owner;
  • The amount of the security deposit and disclosure of rights under the Security Deposit Law.

Verbal Rental Agreements: You and the landlord may agree verbally to the terms of your tenancy. However, it is safer to get all terms in writing.

Lease: A lease is merely a contract form which has been adapted for use by an individual landlord. The lease should clarify the rights and responsibilities of both the tenant and the landlord. ALWAYS READ YOUR LEASE BEFORE SIGNING. If wording is unclear, ask for an explanation. Within 30 days after the lease is signed, the landlord is required to furnish you with a copy for your records. If the landlord does not give you a copy within the allotted 30 days, s/he can be fined up to $300. Any provision which conflicts with the law or requires you, as a tenant or prospective tenant, to waive your rights is void and unenforceable (M.G.L., c. 186, sec. 15B).

Types of Leases: A standard fixed-term lease typically runs for a 12-month period and may or may not be renewed after the period expires. A self-extending lease is one which automatically renews itself if neither the landlord nor the tenant gives formal notice that there will be no renewal by the date specified in the lease.

Remember . . .

  • Describe in the lease all rental terms, conditions and charges. During the lease term, the landlord cannot add a charge for the use of facilities that were available at no cost when the lease was signed.
  • Check that all blanks appearing in the lease have been filled in and that the agreed upon rent is stated.
  • Write into the lease all verbal promises, additional clauses or clarifications made by either party. Both you and the landlord must initial each change.

Financial Matters

Pre-payments: Pre-payments, or money to which the landlord is entitled before you move in, are limited by law(M.G.L, c. 186, sec 15B) as follows:

  • the first month's rent
  • the last month's rent
  • one month's security deposit
  • purchase and installation cost for a lock and key

Security Deposit and Last Month's Rent

A security deposit and the last month's rent are not the same thing, nor are they interchangeable. Last month's rent is the pre-payment to the landlord for the last month of tenancy. A security deposit is a deposit of money to the landlord to ensure that rent will be paid and other responsibilities of the lease performed (e.g., paying for damage caused by the tenant). The amount of the last month's rent and of the security deposit each cannot be greater than one month's rent. If the landlord later raises the rent, s/he can require you to increase both the amount of the last month's rent and the amount of the security deposit to equal the new rent. A landlord cannot transfer one for the use of the other without the tenant's consent. Likewise, the tenant may not use the security deposit as the last month's rent.

Receipts: Upon receiving a last month's rent and/or a security deposit, the landlord must give you a receipt for each prepayment. The following information must be included:

  • the amount
  • the date on which it was received
  • its intended use
  • the name of the person receiving it
  • if an agent is involved, the name of the landlord for whom the rent is collected
  • the signature of the landlord or agent.

If last month's rent is collected, the landlord must also give you a statement indicating that you are entitled to either 5% interest or other such lesser amount of interest as has been received from the bank where the deposit has been held, a statement indicating that you should provide the landlord at the termination of tenancy with a forwarding address where interest can be sent, and a description of the rented apartment.

THE LANDLORD IS REQUIRED TO PAY INTEREST ON BOTH LAST MONTH'S RENT AND SECURITY DEPOSIT.

Payment of Interest: Interest is payable to you each year on the anniversary date of your tenancy. On each anniversary date, the landlord must give or send you a statement indicating the amount of interest owed you for your security deposit and/or last month's rent. At the same time the landlord must give or send the interest due or a notice that you may deduct the interest from the next rental payment. If within 30 days of the anniversary date you do not receive the interest or the notice to deduct, you may deduct the interest from your next rental payment. You do not have to live in your apartment for more than 12 months to be eligible for accrued interest on last month's rent. If your tenancy terminates before the anniversary date, you are entitled to all interest accrued on last month's rent. (Interest does not accrue for that month for which the last month's rent is used.) However, the security deposit must be held for a year or more starting from the commencement of tenancy to make you eligible for 5% interest or other such lesser amount of interest as has been received from the bank in which the deposit has been held on your security deposit. Interest on both last month's rent and security deposit must be paid within 30 days of the date of termination.

The payment of interest on security deposits and last month's rent has been required by law since January 1, 1972, and April 1,1984, respectively.

Important! The law requires a landlord to hold a security deposit in a separate, interest-bearing account in a Massachusetts bank. (The landlord does not have to maintain a separate account for each deposit.) So within 30 days after receipt of the security deposit, the landlord must give you a receipt identifying the bank's name and address, the account number, and the amount of the deposit. If the landlord fails to comply, you are entitled to immediate return of your security deposit.

Statement of Condition: If a landlord or agent takes a security deposit, (s)he must give you a signed, separate written statement of the present condition of the premises. You must be given this statement when the landlord/agent receives the deposit or within 10 days after tenancy begins, whichever is later. The statement must contain a comprehensive list of existing damage including any certified violation of the State Sanitary Code or building code and a list of damages adjudicated by a court. If you do not agree with the contents of the statement, you must return a corrected copy to the landlord within 15 days after you receive the list or 15 days after you move in, whichever is later. If you do not return this list, a court may later view your failure to return the list as your agreement that the list is complete and correct in any suit that you may bring to recover your security deposit. If you do not submit a separate or corrected list of damages, the landlord must return it within 15 days of receipt with a clear written response of agreement or disagreement. This signed statement and the original condition statement are the basis upon which future deductions for damage will be made. If the landlord does not give you a Statement of Condition, you should write your own and send a copy to the landlord or agent.

Transfer of Security Deposit and Last Month's Rent: Upon sale or transfer of the building, the landlord must credit the last month's rent and security deposit with any accrued interest to the new landlord. The new landlord is required to notify you in writing that the last month's rent and/or security deposit was transferred to him within 45 days from the date of transfer. The notice must also contain the new landlord's (and agent's, if applicable) name, business address and telephone number. If the former landlord fails to transfer the pre-payments to the new landlord, s/he is still liable, but the new landlord shall also assume responsibility. If the tenant is still living in the apartment, the new landlord can satisfy his obligation by granting the tenant free rent for a period equivalent to the pre-payments made, typically one month's rent.

Damage Deduction from Security Deposits: The landlord must return the security deposit within 30 days after the termination of tenancy. However, the landlord can deduct only for the following:

  • any unpaid rent which has not been withheld validly or deducted under the law;
  • any unpaid increase in real estate taxes which the tenant was obligated to pay under a valid tax escalator clause;
  • a reasonable amount necessary to repair any damage caused by the tenant, any person under his/her control or any person on the premises with his/her consent. Pet damage can also be deducted. The tenant does not have to pay for reasonable wear and tear associated with normal use. However, the tenant is responsible for maintaining the apartment in a clean and sanitary condition ---free of garbage and rubbish.

If the premises are damaged, the landlord must provide the following within 30 days after the tenancy ends:

  • a detailed list of damages listing their nature and extent, and the repairs required to remedy them. This list must be sworn to by the landlord or his agent under the pains and penalties of perjury;
  • written evidence such as estimates, bills, invoices or receipts, indicating the actual or estimated cost of these repairs.

The landlord cannot deduct for repairs for any damage listed in the Statement of Condition or acknowledged amendments, unless the landlord can prove that s/he repaired the original damage after notification, and that new damage was caused by the tenant. The landlord must return the balance of the security deposit (if any), after all proper deductions have been made.

IF THE LANDLORD FAILS . . .

  • to pay interest on last month's rent within 30 days termination of tenancy;
  • to deposit the security deposit in a bank account;
  • to return the security deposit (or balance after lawful deductions) with accrued interest within 30 days after termination of tenancy; or
  • to transfer the security deposit or last month's rent to the new landlord

. . . YOU ARE ENTITLED TO TRIPLE DAMAGES, PLUS COURT COSTS AND REASONABLE ATTORNEY FEES.

IF THE LANDLORD . . .

  • fails to furnish you with an itemized list of damages within 30 days after termination of tenancy if deductions are made for damages;
  • fails to make the security deposit records available for inspection during office hours; or
  • fails to provide, within 30 days of receipt of the deposit, another (see p. 6) receipt with name and location of bank and amount and account # of deposit;
  • uses a lease which contains provisions conflicting with the security deposit law and attempts to enforce these provisions or attempts to get you to sign a waiver of rights

. . . YOU ARE ENTITLED TO THE IMMEDIATE RETURN OF YOUR SECURITY DEPOSIT. THE LANDLORD CANNOT KEEP YOUR SECURITY DEPOSIT FOR ANY REASON, INCLUDING MAKING DEDUCTIONS FOR DAMAGE.

HABITABILITY RIGHTS

The tenant is entitled to a safe and habitable living environment. The State Sanitary Code protects the health, safety and well-being of tenants and the general public. 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 Code includes the following provisions:

  • HEAT: The landlord must provide and maintain a heating system in good operating order. From September 16 to June 14, every room must be heated to a temperature of at least 68oF between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. and at least 64oF between the hours of 11:01 p.m. and 6:59 a.m. unless the tenant is required to supply the fuel under a written lease agreement. During the heating season, the maximum heat allowable in the apartment is 78oF.
  • COCKROACHES AND RODENTS: The landlord of a dwelling of 2 units or more must maintain the unit free from rodents, cockroaches, and insect infestation, and must be responsible for extermination.
  • 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 (except when a written lease agreement requires the tenant to provide his/her own stove and oven), and space and proper facilities for the installation of a refrigerator. NOTE: The refrigerator does not have to be provided.
  • HOT WATER: The landlord must provide and maintain facilities capable of heating and supplying hot water at a temperature between 110oF and 130oF in a quantity and pressure sufficient to satisfy the ordinary use of all plumbing fixtures. Exceptions are made when the occupant is required to provide fuel for the operation of the facilities under the written lease agreement.
  • 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, weather tight, 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 .
  • LEAD PAINT: If there are children under the age of six living in the dwelling, all lead paint must be removed.

Reporting Violations of the Code: If you feel conditions exist that may violate the Code, such as the ones listed above, follow these steps:

  • Call your landlord and advise him/her of the problem and request repair. In addition, put your request in writing for the record. If the landlord's response is not satisfactory, continue with the following steps.
  • Call your local health department and request an inspection. It is against the law for the landlord to retaliate by raising the rent or evicting the tenant for reporting violations to the authorities within six months of request.
  • Prepare a list of suspected violations you wish investigated. If you want a comprehensive inspection, inform the inspector.
  • Make sure the inspector writes down all the violations.
  • Any violation (major or minor) may be determined to be CODE ONE, one endangering the health and well-being of the tenants, by the inspector. The inspector must provide the tenant with a copy of the report and must specify a time period for the landlord to correct the violations. If the landlord has not begun repairs or contracted for repairs within this specified period of time, s/he could be subject to fines or imprisonment.

Tenant's Remedies:

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that when a landlord fails to maintain a dwelling in a habitable condition, a tenant may properly withhold a portion of the rent from the date the landlord has notice of this breach of the warranty of habitability(M.G.L., c. 239, $8A). Rent withholding can be a useful tool to force repairs, but it is a serious step and should be dealt with carefully. You may want to get some legal advice before proceeding with rent withholding since the landlord may try to evict you for non-payment of rent. You should first appeal to your landlord in writing to make the necessary repairs. You should next contact your local board of health to inspect your apartment for health code violations. You must be current in your rent up until the time of the problem and the unsanitary conditions should be such that do not require the apartment to be vacated. If violations still exist, you should write to your landlord informing him/her that you will be withholding rent and be sure to specify your reasoning for doing so. Deciding how much to withhold is individual to the situation of the tenant (e.g., the cost for loss of heat or other major inconvenience). You need only pay the fair rent for your unit given its defective condition.

Repair and deduct is another means by which a tenant may make emergency repairs in an apartment or common living areas and deduct up to four months future rent to pay for them if three conditions are met (M.G.L.,c. 111, s.127L):

  • the local board of health or other code enforcement agency has certified the health code violations the apartment as Code One violations.
  • the landlord receives written notice of the existing violations from the inspecting agency.
  • the landlord is allowed five days from the date of notice to begin repairs him/herself or to contract for outside services and 14 days to substantially complete all necessary repairs. (Note: A landlord may have less than 14 days to complete the repairs if ordered by the court or the local code enforcement agency.)

If the tenant qualifies under "repair and deduct," the tenant may treat the lease or rental agreement as broken, and may move rather than undertake the necessary repairs. However, the tenant must pay the fair value for the period s/he occupied the apartment and vacate the apartment within a reasonable period of time.

Shutoff Rights: The landlord cannot cause the removal or shutoff of utilities except for a temporary period during repair or emergencies. In cases when a landlord's account is about to be shut off for non-payment, state law (M.G.L., c. 164, sec. 124D) and Department of Public Utilities regulations require utility companies to notify each affected tenant in writing at least 30 days prior to the scheduled termination. Tenants may also be asked to pay part of the overdue bill to the utility and deduct that payment from their rent. Tenants should contact the Department of Public Utilities at (617) 727-3531 or (800)392-6066 for more information.

TENANT'S RIGHTS

Right Against Unlawful Entry: (M.G.L., c. 186, sec. 15B) The landlord may enter the tenant's apartment under a right of entry clause by written agreement only for the following reasons:

  • to inspect the premises
  • to make repairs
  • to show the apartment to a prospective tenant, purchaser, mortgagee or its agents
  • in accordance with a court order
  • if the premises appear to have been abandoned
  • to inspect the premises within the last 30 days of the tenancy or to determine the amount of damage to be deducted from the security deposit after notice to terminate has been given.

The landlord should be "reasonable." S/He should attempt to arrange a mutually convenient time to visit the apartment. If the landlord persists in entering your apartment in an unreasonable fashion, you should file for a temporary restraining order at your local district court.

EVICTION

IF YOU ARE A TENANT WITH A LEASE, your landlord may attempt to evict you if:

  • You have not been paying your rent (Non-Payment Eviction)
  • You or people under your control have caused excessive damage to the apartment or you have violated terms of your lease (e.g., subletting or pets without permission) (Other Cause Eviction)

Your landlord must first send you a "Notice to Quit." The terms of your lease will dictate the notice required. Typically, if you are being evicted for non-payment of rent, you must receive a 14-day notice by law, and for other-cause eviction, notice as specified in the lease,typically a 7-day notice.

IF YOU ARE A TENANT-AT-WILL, your landlord is not required to give you any reason for termination of your tenancy, but there must be reason to evict. The fact that your landlord has terminated your tenancy-at-will, however, constitutes sufficient reason. The termination notice (see "Types of Tenancies") is the "Notice to Quit."

YOU DO NOT HAVE TO MOVE OUT OF YOUR APARTMENT AFTER THE 14 OR 7 DAYS. You may only be evicted from your apartment when a judge orders you evicted. If this is the first time in a 12-month period that you are being evicted for non-payment of rent, you may avoid eviction by paying up any rent owed within ten days of receipt of the notice. The notice of a tenant's rights to cure in a non-payment case must appear on the "Notice to Quit." If the notice does not appear, as it may not in the case of a tenant-at-will, the tenant has until the date the Answer is due to pay up back rent.

NOTE: Landlords of public housing and rent-control tenants must first go through the local housing authority and rent control board, respectively, before the landlord can proceed with the eviction. Public housing and rent control tenants have the right to a hearing in front of the appropriate board on their eviction.

You may be able to avoid the court eviction procedure altogether by using alternative mechanisms:

  • The Boston, Springfield and Worcester Housing Courts provide mediation and conciliation for tenants and landlords within their jurisdiction. Housing specialists at the courts help to resolve disputes between the two parties.
  • The Attorney General's Face-to-Face Mediation Program and the Executive Office of Communities and Development's Housing Services Programs sponsor mediation programs which allow the landlord and tenant to work out a mutually satisfactory decision with the assistance of a neutral mediator.

If all else fails and the landlord is bringing you to court, be prepared to defend yourself. If you do not show up, you will default and automatically lose any defense against eviction. Even if your landlord tells you s/he has decided not to pursue eviction, you should appear on the date specified to protect yourself. You may want to seriously consider getting some legal advice before going to court.

The Summons and Complaint: After the notice period (14 or 7 days) has passed, the landlord delivers to the tenant a Summary Process and Complaint. This officially informs the tenant that the landlord is taking legal action against the tenant. The complaint will state the date of the eviction hearing and the date on which the Answer must be filed.

Answer: The Answer is a written response from the tenant stating why s/he should not be evicted. The Answer also gives you the chance to make counterclaims against the landlord. Counterclaims may include, for example,health code violations, retaliation, harassment, security deposit violations, or improper eviction procedure. The Answer form is available at your local district court. It must be received by both the court and the landlord by the Monday before your court date. KEEP A COPY FOR YOURSELF.

The Appeal: The judgment is entered with the clerk of the court on the Friday after the trial. If you lose the case, you may appeal the decision and request a new hearing. If you choose to appeal, file a Notice of Appeal within 10 days after the date the judgment is entered. You will be required to pay an "appeal bond" which may be waived if you are not able to afford it. It is advisable to speak with an attorney at this point.

The Execution: The execution is the judge's eviction order. If the eviction is to take place, the court will give the landlord an execution paper ten days after the judgment is entered. The landlord cannot evict you without this paper. The execution may be served by a constable or sent by registered mail. At least 48 hours before the execution is to be served, you must be given written notice of the date and time when, if you have not already left, you and your possessions will be physically removed from the apartment. The execution is good for three months. This means that if your landlord chooses to allow you to stay in the apartment s/he can later use the execution at any time within the three months. However, if within the three months the landlord accepts payment of the amount won in the summary process action and your current rent, s/he cannot use the execution at any point and must return it to the court.

The Stay of Execution: If the eviction was not your fault or you cannot find a place to live, you may be able to convince the judge to grant you a stay of execution, allowing you to stay in your apartment for up to six months. Elderly or handicapped tenants can request a stay of up to one year. However, if you are being evicted for non-payment of rent, you have no clear legal basis to request a stay. In the case of a tenant whose damages (which may arise from counterclaims made by the tenant) are less than the amount owed to the landlord(e.g., back rent), the tenant has 7 days to pay the balance, with interest and court costs, and thus avoid eviction (M.G.L., c. 239, s. 8A)

The Eviction: When the date on the execution order arrives, you must move out. The landlord is not required to give you any further notice once the eviction order has been executed. It is best to move out your own furniture. If you do not, the sheriff or constable will forcibly move you out and place your possessions in storage.

You should make a list of the stored items and any identifying marks. Your furniture cannot be put on the street unless you give permission. Though not stated by law, usual practice holds that you will be responsible for the cost of storage after the first three months. Your former landlord may also sue you for the cost of eviction (e.g., 3 months storage, constable and moving fees). If you do not get your furniture out of storage within six months, the person storing it has the right to sell it. However, you do not have to pay back rent to get your furniture out.

CONDOMINIUM CONVERSION: State law requires that an owner who is converting rental units to condominiums or cooperatives must give tenants a notice to vacate of one full year or until the expiration of the lease, whichever is longer. If the tenant is elderly (62 and older),handicapped, or low/moderate income, the tenant must be given two years to vacate the apartment. The notice of condominium conversion must be sent certified or registered mail, return-receipt requested.

During this time period, rent cannot be raised by more than 10% or the Consumer Price Index, whichever is lower. The owner is required to pay up to $750 per rental unit for relocation expenses; $1000 per unit if the tenants are elderly, handicapped, or low/moderate income. The owner must also assist elderly, handicapped, or low/moderate income tenants to find comparable housing in the same city or town.

Each tenant must be given the opportunity to purchase the unit s/he occupies. The conditions of the purchase must be equal to or better than those offered to the public. Massachusetts cities and towns have the right to modify state condominium laws. Boston, Acton, Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville already have their own condo conversion laws and so are not bound by the state law. Check with your local housing agency for more information on individual city and town laws.

TENANTS' RESOURCES

The Self-Help Guide in the Community Service pages of your local telephone directory lists a number of area organizations which provide assistance to tenants (e.g., boards of health, legal aid services, consumer and tenant groups). Telephone numbers for local housing authorities, rent control boards and district courts are listed in the blue pages of your phone book.

Housing Discrimination
Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination
One Ashburton Place, 6th Floor
Boston, MA 02108(617) 727-3990

Boston Fair Housing Commission
City Hall, Room 957
Boston, MA 02201(617) 725-4408
(Boston Residents only)


Complaints against Real Estate Agents/Salespersons Division of Registration Investigative Unit 100 Cambridge Street, 15th Floor Boston, MA 02202(617) 727-7406  Lead Paint Removal Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program State Laboratory 305 South Street Jamaica Plain, MA 02130 (617) 522-3700 Toll Free: (800) 532-9571 Housing Courts  Boston Housing Court Suffolk County New Court House, 10th floor Government Center Boston, MA 02108 (617) 725-8495 (617) 742-5822 (Emergencies, Nights, Sundays, Holidays)  Hampden County Housing Court 37 Elm Street Springfield, MA 01103 (413) 781 -8100 Worcester County Housing Court Worcester County Court House 2 Main Street, Room 101 Worcester, MA 01608 (617) 792-0800 

Face-to-Face Mediation Program: Contact your local consumer group which is listed in the Self-Help Guide in the telephone directory or call the Attorney General's Consumer Hotline -727-8400- which can also direct you to a program in your area.

Housing Services Program: The Housing Services Program provides tenant and landlord mediation, tenant counseling and information to low-to-moderate income tenants and landlords. To find out which community agency covers your city or town,contact the Executive Office of Communities and Development at (617) 727-7127.

July 1994