Many of the steps you would take to improve the health of your property also reduces your liability. For instance, addressing excessive moisture issues, which may be exacerbating your tenants’ asthma, protects the structural integrity of your building and prevents more costly issues down the road. Some measures, like installing a ventilation system, can also improve property value.
As a landlord you have certain rights and responsibilities. You have the right to expect the timely payment of rent in accordance with your rental agreement. You also have an obligation to maintain safe and habitable housing.
As a landlord, you have the right to receive prompt rent payments in accordance with your rental agreement. If a tenant doesn’t pay rent on time, you may issue a Notice to Quit. You also have the right to have your tenant abide by the terms of the tenancy, such as smoking and pet policies. If the a tenant breaches terms of the tenancy, you have the right to terminate the tenancy, but you must follow the process dictated by law. There may be instances where you need to take action against one tenant to protect another tenant’s private enjoyment of the property.
As a landlord, you have an obligation to provide habitable apartments and common areas for the entire tenancy and in accordance with the State Sanitary Code and applicable building codes.
Landlords must provide a heating system in good working order. The landlord must pay for the fuel to provide heat, hot water, and electricity unless the written rental agreement says it is the tenant’s responsibility.
Landlords must provide a sink that is sufficient for washing dishes, electrical hook-ups for installation of a refrigerator, and an stove and oven in good working order (unless the written rental agreement states the tenant must provide this). If the landlord provides a refrigerator, s/he must maintain it in good working order.
If landlords meet certain requirements then they may charge a new tenant for water consumption by installing a water meter for the unit. In this situation, they are still responsible for paying the water and sewer bill and must bill their tenant separately.
If there are two or more apartments in the building, landlords must maintain the property free from infestation.
Landlords are required to maintain the foundation, floors, walls, doors, window, ceilings, roof, stairwells, porches, chimneys, and other structural elements to block the elements, rodents, water, and be free of chronic dampness. Structural elements must be in good repair and fit for human habitation.
Landlords are responsible for maintaining every exit used by the building’s occupants. Exits must be kept free of snow, trash, and other obstructions.
Federal and state fair housing regulations require property owners to reasonably accommodate the needs of disabled or handicapped persons. Characteristics that define a handicapped or disabled person under law include a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a person in one or more major life activity. The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination defines life activities as walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, and performance of manual tasks and caring for oneself. A Reasonable Accommodation may mean allowing an exemption to certain policies in order to provide a disabled person an equal opportunity to use and enjoy the property, such as allowing a companion animal in a building with a no-pet policy. Reasonable Accommodations could also mean reasonable modifications to the property, like a ramp or Braille signage.
You Cannot Ask Tenants about Disability
As a landlord, you are not allowed to ask prospective tenants about disability. You cannot cannot request information about the nature, extent, or severity of a person’s disability. A tenant may approach you requesting an accommodation. It is legal to request documentation from a third party, like a doctor, to confirm the presence of a disability and justify the need for the accommodation. You may not inquire about the specific nature of the disability.
Accommodations Shouldn’t Cause You Undue Financial Burden
Accommodations should not cause undue financial and administrative burden to the property owner. In buildings with less than 10 units, a tenant may be required to pay for modifications. A landlord cannot unreasonably refuse to grant the tenant permission to make reasonable modifications, but they can request that the tenant restores the property to its original condition to protect property value.
Lead Paint Notification Requirement
Prior to entering a lease or rental agreement with a tenant, you must notify the prospective tenant, using a specific form, about lead in the property. If available, you must provide a copy of any lead inspection report, risk assessment report, Letter of Compliance, or Letter of Interim Control. The tenant is required to sign a Certification Form to verify that they receiving this information.
Lead Safety is Your Responsibility
As a landlord in Massachusetts, it is your responsibility to ensure that a property is lead safe if there is a child residing there. Massachusetts law requires the removal or covering of lead paint hazards, including lead paint on all surfaces that are mouthable, moveable, or deteriorated. This work, known as lead abatement, can only be performed by a state licensed deleader. Please Note: It is illegal for a landlord to refuse to rent or seek to evict a family with children under age six because of lead paint.
For more information about lead and lead laws, including links to notification and certification forms, please visit out Lead page.
More and more properties are going smoke-free. Smoke-free policies are not discriminatory since they only prohibit smoking in the building or on the property. Smoke-free policies do not prohibit smokers from living in the building. The MA Department of Public Health reports the following benefits of making your buildings smoke free:
- save money by reducing the need for repairs
- reduce potential legal liability
- eliminate the leading cause of residential fires
- reduce conflicts among tenants
- eliminate exposure to a Class A carcinogen
For information and resources (no smoking lease addendum template, template letter to residents, and more) to make your building smoke-free, visit MA DPH’s website.
Joining a landlord association is a great way to stay informed, get support, and learn from other landlords. The Rental Housing Association of Greater Springfield (RHAGS) operates in Springfield and the surrounding towns and cities. RHAGS produces a monthly newsletter and hosts a monthly dinner meeting with guest speakers who address issues concerning property owners. Fore more information or to join RHAGS, visit the RHAGS website. You can also contact RHAGS by phone at 413-583-8922 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Services & Resources for Landlords
Landlord Rights and Responsibilities
General Housing Services
Please visit our Home Health Hazards pages for services and resources specific to home health hazards.