Questions and Answers for August 2016

Adapted from our Message Boards, where members can ask questions and get answers. Practicing landlords and service providers answer questions, and we combine the best answers into one here.

Q: Where can I read the Massachusetts landlord-tenant laws for myself? has useful summaries and links, but reading the laws for yourself is always advisable. When you’re in court before a judge, the only thing that matters is what the law says.

(Technical note: the legislature works by drafting “bills”. When passed they are referred to as “acts” of the legislature. Acts can create “statutes” or can delegate responsibility to create “regulations”. The “statutes” are also known as the “Massachusetts General Laws” (MGL). The “regulations” created by government agencies are the Code of Massachusetts Regulation (CMR). Regulations and statutes have equal power and enforceability, although the wording of regulations was never voted on.)

Rent Control is banned in MGL Chapter 40P.

Discrimination is defined in MGL Chapter 151B. (Remember federal law also applies.)

Late fees, eviction notices, security deposits, and the majority of landlord-tenant law can be found in Mass General Law Chapter 186.

Rent withholding, eviction move-out’s, and domestic violence are covered in Chapter 239.

The state sanitary code, which determines the features of your apartment, is 105 CMR 410.

Lead regulation is covered in 105 CMR 460.

The reason why realtors can charge an application fee (but landlords cannot) is covered partly in 254 CMR 7Anchor, the rest in the above-reference statutes.

Q: Do boa constrictors as pets have any special considerations?

Make your own decision and try to gather as much information about your prospective tenant’s practices, but consider the following. Boa constrictors usually need live rodents for food. The tenants may therefore be bringing in live rats and/or mice for it to eat. You don't want tenants bringing rodents into any apartment because they could escape and start living in the walls and other units.

Also, maybe it's unusual, but when one Googles "boa constrictor baby death", one finds a number of stories and their particular tragedies. You might consider a boa very carefully if there are children on the property. A boa constrictor that stays in its tank all day is fine, until it escapes…

Certainly any pet carries with it risks and costs. Be objective, gather facts, make a business decision, and keep a paper trail.

2 Responses to Questions and Answers for August 2016

  1. Steve Rose says:

    I am trying to find info about making changes to a tenancy at will dealing with the pet issue. The dog leaves his messes all over the yard and the tenant refuses to pick up the messes in a timely manor. He believes that once a week most picked up is OK and I have repeatedly told him dailey.
    I want to take away the pet privilege. Can I make it Immediately? one week? 30 days? rental period?

    There is plenty of info about rent increases but little info about length of time for other notices.
    Thanks for any help

    • Doug Quattrochi says:

      Steve, this is the kind of issue best tackled on our message boards, at one our networking events, or with an attorney on our directory. =/ I am not an attorney but I believe you will have to terminate the tenancy and offer to create a new tenancy without the pet. This will probably lead to eviction.

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