Types of Tenancy
Your landlord may offer you a lease, which typically runs for one year, or a verbal or written tenancy-at-will agreement, which runs from month to month.
A tenancy-at-will agreement gives you the opportunity to move out after giving the landlord a proper 30-day written notice, but it also allows the landlord to ask you to leave or to give you a rent increase with a proper 30-day written notice.
A lease offers you more security. The landlord cannot increase your rent until the end of the lease, and cannot attempt to evict you before the end of your lease, unless you violate the lease agreement. You are legally obligated to pay your rent until the end of the lease. Read the agreement completely before signing it and keep a copy for your records. A lease should include the following:
- Amount of rent
- Duration of tenancy
- Names of those allowed to live in the apartment
- Amount of security deposit
- Description of utilities and whether the landlord or tenant is responsible for payment of each
- Preexisting damages to the apartment
- Any agreements for repairs or changes to be made to the apartment
- Rules or regulations describing use of the apartment. This could include noise, practicing, guests, parties, pets, parking, use of facilities, landlord’s right to access the apartment and other issues.
- Name, address and contact information for landlord or property manager
- Subletting rules
Most leases and written agreements prohibit subletting without the landlord’s permission. This means a tenant cannot add or replace roommates without the landlord’s prior approval.
You have the right to a safe and livable environment during your tenancy. Habitability requirements includes providing running water and a heating system in good working order; a working sink, stove and oven in the kitchen; an apartment free from rodents, cock-roaches, and insect infestation; a structurally sound dwelling; and unobstructed exits from the apartment, which includes snow removal.
If your landlord fails to maintain a habitable environment you have the right to withhold a portion of your rent from the date your landlord was notified. 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 legal advice before withholding your rent since the landlord may try to evict you for non-payment of rent.
Rights Against Unlawful Entry
Your landlord has the right to enter your apartment only to inspect the premises, make repairs, show the apartment to prospective tenants, in compliance with a court order, if it appears to be abandoned, or to inspect the unit within the last 30 days of tenancy to assess damages. The landlord should provide advance notice and attempt to arrange a mutually convenient time to visit the apartment.
Rights Against Retaliation
Although the landlord of a Tenant at Will or under lease can terminate the tenancy or raise the rent without reason, he cannot do so in response to your exercising your legal rights. If the landlord tries to raise the 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 otherwise.
Please note: the information on this page was adapted from the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation and the City of Boston Rental Housing Resource Center websites. For more information, please refer to those websites.