Friday, February 24, 2017

Why Property Maintenance is Important: Tenant Rights and Landlord Responsibilities in Massachusetts

If you are a Massachusetts landlord, proper maintenance of your real estate investment will keep your property in good shape and also avoid friction between you and your tenants. 

If you are a Massachusetts tenant, it is useful to know your rights so that if your landlord fails to maintain the property you are living in, you are aware if what steps you can legally take to remedy the situation.

Whether you are a landlord or a tenant, you can use this article to better understand landlord and tenant responsibilities and rights in Boston, MA. 

Why Good Property Maintenance Makes Both Parties Happy

If you are a landlord and your tenants are satisfied with the way you maintain the property they call home, they are more likely not to be late with their rent, to take care of their units, and to renew their leases. You, as a landlord, will reap the benefits of low tenant turnover (resulting in fewer vacancy days) and a more consistent cash flow.

Property Maintenance Tips for Boston Landlords

Seasonal inspections and maintenance and taking care of small problems promptly before they turn into bigger ones will save you money over the long term.

A good idea is to set aside one or two months of rent per year (more for an older property) to cover maintenance costs. If you have a vacancy, make sure the rental unit is up to code and appealing to prospective new tenants so that it rents quickly.

Your Obligations as a Massachusetts Landlord

As a landlord in Massachusetts, your responsibilities include the duty to provide the following:
  • Habitable premises in good repair and free from infestation.
  • Adequate heat, electricity and hot water.
  • Necessary kitchen appliances in good working order.
  • Good plumbing and working toilets.
  • Maintenance of all exits to the property which should also be free of obstructions.
For a more detailed explanation of your duties, please consult the Massachusetts Consumer Guide to Landlord Rights and Responsibilities.

Your Rights as a Massachusetts Tenant

All tenants in Massachusetts have the legal right to live in a rental property that is kept in good condition and meets basic standards with respect to Massachusetts health and safety regulations.

If your landlord fails in his responsibilities to fix major problems, such as a broken heating system or a leaky roof, you have legal rights, including:
  • Withholding rent until repairs are made.
  • The right to “repair and deduct” – i.e., you can hire someone (such as an electrician or a plumber) to fix a serious defect in your rental unit (or buy what is needed to make the repair and do it yourself) and deduct the cost from your rent.
To read about your tenant rights in more detail, please click this link to the Massachusetts Consumer Guide to Tenant Rights and Responsibilities.

What Massachusetts Tenants Should Know Before Making Rent Deductions

Before deciding to withhold rent or take advantage of repair and deduct, make sure that the circumstances justify your taking the action. You need to know the following:
  • What maintenance emergencies are more important than others.
  • When a lack of maintenance qualifies for rent withholding or repair and deduct.
  • The length of time you must give your landlord to fix the problem and what written notice to give him before you can take action.
  • How much rent you may withhold or deduct, how often you can do so, and whether you need to pay the withheld amounts into an escrow account.
  • What your protection is from landlord retaliation (e.g. terminating your lease, raising your rent, or locking you out of your apartment).

Remember to Check Local Boston Rules

Local housing ordinances for your particular Massachusetts town or city should be consulted for regulations covering tenant rights.

Find your local building or housing authority by contacting your mayor or city manager’s office or viewing your city or county website.

Find a Good Property Management Company in Boston

Premier Property Solutions can take all the worry about managing your Massachusetts rental property off your hands, including the handling of maintenance requests from your tenants.

We will take all the burden of maintenance off your shoulders ensuring that maintenance issues are taken care of efficiently and promptly and that you have happy tenants. Please contact us to see how we can make your life as a landlord a lot easier.