Obtain money you’re owed.
Conduct efficient evictions.
Defend against lawsuits.
As you probably know, being a landlord is more than just collecting rent checks and making repairs. Many Massachusetts laws are designed to protect the tenant. Countless landlords try evicting or suing tenants, only to wind up owing money because they had ignored the rules all along. But if you follow the law and do things right, you’ll earn a good income and have peace of mind.
Security Deposit Law
The TENANT owns the deposit until you obtain rights to it. If you take one, you MUST:
1) Give the tenant a signed, dated receipt with your name and the unit address, stating the bank account number where the deposit will be held in a separate escrow account. I can provide you with a receipt that complies with the statute.
2) Within 10 days, prepare and give the tenant a signed Statement of Condition, listing any damage to the unit, including any building and sanitary code violations. Have the tenant sign it. It must contain a certain disclaimer verbatim and even be in 12 point, bold face type!!
3) Keep certain records regarding the deposit regarding damages, repairs, etc.
4) Pay the tenant annual interest on the deposit.
The penalties are stiff. You CAN deduct the deposit at the end of the tenancy for things like unpaid rent and structural damages, but ONLY IF you give the tenant a lawful itemization. Be careful, penalties include triple damages and deposit forfeiture.
Last Month’s Rent
More traps. You’re not required to put last month’s rent in escrow, but you must pay the tenant interest. Also, you must give a receipt stating the rent, the unit address, the person collecting the rent, that you must pay interest…. These are just the basics–call me for more details. Again, penalties include triple the interest plus court costs and attorney’s fees.
So the tenant stops paying rent. Or maybe they violated the lease. You’d rather not evict someone, but you have a mortgage to pay. Thankfully the process moves quickly, but each step must be done correctly. The prudent landlord hires an attorney to navigate the process from the beginnning.
A Summary Process action is the normal tool of eviction. But first you must terminate the tenancy if it hasn’t expired already. A Notice to Quit will terminate the tenancy, but you must know which type of Notice to use, what precise language it must contain and how to deliver it. The tenant’s deadline to vacate the unit depends on your grounds to end the tenancy and the type of the tenancy.
If the tenant doesn’t leave, it’s time for the Complaint and Summons. After determining the proper court in which to file, the paperwork is requested and completed. Entry, answer and trial dates are chosen within the guidelines. First, the tenant is properly served with the Complaint and Summons between 7 and 30 days before the entry date. Then the clock starts ticking. Before the date on which the case is “entered” with the Court, the following are filed:
1) original summons and complaint
2) a copy of the Notice to Quit with proof of receipt, and
3) the entry fee.
The tenant then has a deadline to answer the Complaint and the litigation begins.
If your tenant is living in public or subsidized housing, you have other rules to worry about. Understand that you’re not allowed to evict in retaliation, e.g., if the tenant withheld rent due to bad conditions. The tenant would be entitled to up to three times the rent. Furthermore, the commonwealth has tough discrimination laws. Never discriminate against someone based on race, age, gender and so on. It’s wrong and could come back to haunt you legally.
Every landlord should know:
The few circumstances when he’s allowed to enter the premises.
The limits on what he can collect from a tenant up front.
Where the deposit and last month’s rent go when he sells the property.
The strict requirements of the State Sanitary Code.