Renting in Boston: 5 Laws You Should Know

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Renting in Boston: 5 Laws You Should Know

Staff Writer · Nov 28, 2009

Moving to a big city like Boston can be both exciting and scary. Making the decision to rent and choosing a place to live are only some of the concerns you have swimming around in your mind. Which apartment should you choose? Do you want to live in a 3-flat or a tower? Do you have any pets? Can you find a place that is close to work? All of those are valid concerns. However, before you do any searching or sign any lease, there are 5 laws about renting in Boston that you should be aware of.

1. Rental Agreement

No matter where you choose to live in Boston, you will be required to sign a rental agreement, or lease. By signing the rental agreement, you are agreeing to some basic terms. The contract will usually state the duration of your stay, the monthly rent amount, if pets are allowed, which utilities you are responsible for paying, the rules of subletting, and the damages that you are responsible for during your stay. Your lease will also cover the landlord’s rights and your rights. Because the lease locks you into some responsibilities, you need to understand it before you sign it. 

2. Upfront Fees

You should be aware that there are some upfront fees when renting in Boston. If you choose to use a real estate broker, you will be responsible for paying them a finder’s fee. In Massachusetts, a landlord can require upfront the first and last months rent, a one month security deposit, and a key deposit for the changing of locks. However, they are required to pay you 5% interest on your security deposit and last months rent for every year that you reside there.

3. Eviction and Termination Laws

While either you or your landlord can terminate the rental agreement at any time, eviction can only be ordered by a judge. It is unlawful for a landlord to lock you out and toss all of your goodies onto the front lawn. However, by law, the landlord is entitled to begin the eviction process if the rent is late even just one day. If evicted, you are required to receive a 14 day notice. If you are terminating your agreement, keep in mind that you could end up owing money based on requirements not fulfilled by your contract.

4. Tenant Lead Law Notification

Massachusetts law states that if you are renting a structure in Boston which was built prior to 1978, your landlord is required to give you a Tenant Lead Law Notification. This means that the building you are moving into originally had lead-based paint on its walls. Because lead poisoning can be dangerous and fatal, your landlord has to provide you with this notification. By signing, your landlord is stating that he notified you, and your signature indicates that you were notified. 

5. Habitability Rights

This law states that you are entitled to a safe and habitable living environment. The landlord must maintain a working heating system, a living space free of rodents, cockroaches, and insect infestations, and a stove and oven in good repair. Additionally, the landlord is responsible for maintaining and repairing the structural elements; such as the foundation, walls, doors, roofs, staircases, porches and chimneys.

Now that you are aware of some of the rental laws, you are ready to search for an apartment in Boston.

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