Massachusetts Rental Lease Agreements

The Massachusetts Rental Lease Agreements lay the foundations for a landlord to lease a residential property to a tenant for a set period of time in return for equal monthly payments. Conditions in the contract may vary, but at their essence, they set out to establish the lease term, parties to the agreement, and the rules and expectations of the parties.

In Massachusetts, leases lasting a term of twelve (12) months or more require a written lease agreement. That is why it is vital to carefully read this guide about the requirements of a lease, as well as to conduct your own research of relevant state laws.

Types of Agreements

Commercial Lease Agreement – A lease agreement that focuses on the landlord-tenant relationship between a landlord with a commercial property to lease, and a company that requires it for business purposes.

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Lease to Own Agreement – Also referred to as a Rent to Own Agreement, this agreement allows tenants to use the rent they pay as a down payment for the rental property to be purchased at a later date.

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Month-to-Month Rental Agreement – This contract offers greater flexibility than a fixed-term lease by outlining conditions for a rental unit to be rented on a month-to-month basis.

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Roommate Agreement – In contrast to a lease agreement, this document is only created and signed by roommates wanting to clarify matters pertaining to their shared residence in a rental unit.

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Standard Residential Lease Agreement – Encompasses any relevant Massachusetts statutes relevant to the lease of a residential dwelling in the state.

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Sublease Agreement – An agreement that provides legal structure for a tenant to further lease the space they originally leased to another party.

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What is a Massachusetts Lease Agreement?

A Massachusetts Lease Agreement premises a landlord and tenant to enter into a legally-binding relationship with one another. This relationship requires each party to meet a number of legal expectations that are specified in the rental contract. Landlords who want to conduct a tenant screening before selecting a suitable tenant should ensure they make use of a rental application form.

State Definition (940 CMR 3.00) – “Any express or implied agreement for use and occupancy of a dwelling unit.”

When is Rent Due?

There is no statute in Massachusetts dictating when rent is due. Landlords should, therefore, make their preferences regarding the matter clear in the lease agreement. In line with Chapter 186, Section 15B(c), there is a thirty (30) day grace period in which landlords cannot impose “any interest or penalty for failure to pay rent until thirty days after such rent shall have been due.”

Landlord’s Access

Emergency: State law does not specify that landlords may enter the rental property without notice in emergency situations, however, this right is protected by federal law.

Non-Emergency (MGL c.186 § 15B(1)(a)): Rental agreements may not grant landlords unlimited access to the rental unit. Landlords, however, may enter in a limited set of circumstances, including to inspect the premises and make repairs. There is no required amount of notice that needs to be given, but in the interests of maintaining a good landlord-tenant relationship, landlords should give tenants at least twenty-four (24) hours notice, and only enter during reasonable times i.e. on business days from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Required Disclosures

  • Fire Insurance (Chapter 186, Section 21): Upon written request by the tenant, landlords must disclose in writing within fifteen (15) days: “the name of the company insuring the property against loss or damage by fire and the amount of insurance provided by each such company and the name of any person who would receive payment for a loss covered by such insurance.”
  • Insurance Disclosure (MGL c.186 § 21): Should the tenant provide a written request, landlords must disclose in writing, within fifteen (15) days of receiving the request: “the name of the company insuring the property against loss or damage by fire and the amount of insurance provided by each such company and the name of any person who would receive payment for a loss covered by such insurance.”
  • Lead Paint Disclosure: Landlords, regardless of which state their rental property is located, must disclose if a rental property built before 1978 has any known lead paint hazards. They must also provide tenants an EPA- and US Consumer Product Safety Commission-approved pamphlet.
  • Names, Addresses, Phone Numbers (Tenant Rights and Responsibilities Handbook): The names, addresses, and telephone numbers of the owners or anyone authorized to act on their behalf must be included in the written rental agreement.
  • Security Deposit Bank Details (Chapter 186, Section 15B): Landlords who demand a security deposit must, within thirty (30) days of receiving it, provide tenants with a receipt that indicates the name and location of the bank in which the security deposit has been deposited, as well as the amount and account number of the deposit.
  • Security Deposit Statement (Chapter 186, Section 15B(2)(c)): Upon receipt of a security deposit or within ten (10) days after the start of the tenancy, whichever is later, landlords are required to provide tenants with a written statement detailing the present condition of the rental premises. It should also contain a comprehensive list of any pre-existing damage in the premises, including, but not limited to: “any violations of the state sanitary or state building codes certified by a local board of health or building official or adjudicated by a court and then existing in the premises.” The statement must be signed and contain a specific notice that can be found in Chapter 186, Section 15B(2)(c).

Security Deposit Laws

Maximum (Chapter 186, Section 15B): Security deposits are capped at an equivalent amount to one (1) month’s rent.

Returning to Tenant (Chapter 186, Section 15B): Landlords must return a security deposit to tenants within thirty (30) days after they have vacated the rental dwelling. In addition to the deposit, any interest accumulated on the deposit must also be paid out. That is, in line state law, landlords must pay five percent (5%) interest, or other such lesser amount of interest as has been received from the bank where the deposit has been held, on security deposits held for more than one (1) year, and must give it to tenants at the termination of tenancy.