June 5, 2019
Boston housing remains largely occupied by renters: just one-third of housing units are occupied by owners. While renting allows for flexibility and savings for many students, young professionals and families, it also comes with obligations, for both landlords and tenants.
It’s important to know your rights as a tenant. Below is a brief overview of common issues between landlords and tenants:
There are three reasons for eviction: lack of rent payment, no fault (landlord wants the apartment empty or wants to rent to someone else), and cause eviction (violation of lease agreement). Tenants who do not pay rent can expect a 14-Day Notice to Quit; however, elderly, disabled, and families with young children can sometimes get up to six months. No-fault evictions receive a 30-Day Notice to Quit/Vacate.
The Housing Court handles eviction cases on Wednesday and Thursday. Low-income individuals (below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines) can get free legal help at Boston Housing Court through the Lawyer for the Day program. Volunteer attorneys are located outside of the courtrooms on the fifth floor.
You are entitled to a safe and habitable living environment during your entire lease. The State Sanitary Code includes the following:
When your landlord fails to maintain habitable conditions, including those listed above, as a tenant you may properly withhold a portion of your rent from the date the landlord has notice of a breach of warrant of habitability. You may withhold a portion of your rent if:
Once the landlord has repaired all defects, you must pay all withheld rent.
Initial deposits can only include four things: security deposit, first month’s rent, last month’s and the cost of changing locks. Pet fees, cleaning fees, application fees, gym fees, etc. are not legal. Your landlord must inform you about where the deposits are being held within 30 days.
The landlord must return the security deposit if there is no damage or unpaid rent; if they fail to do so, the landlord can be brought to court and pay 3X the security deposit. If there is damage beyond “wear and tear,” the landlord must give you a detailed list of damages within 30 days after your tenancy ends.
These are just a few examples of housing related issues you may encounter as a tenant in Boston. If you need legal advice or representation for Housing Court, you can call the Boston Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service at 617-742-0625, connect with an area attorney online 24/7 by clicking “Get Started” here, or by submitting an email request online today.