Review of LegalZoom for Massachusetts Lease Form

Guest Article by Doug Quattrochi in his capacity as Private Landlord

The LegalZoom lease page ought to read "Trust that your rental agreement has you covered as well as three ten-dollar bills possibly can. Many people lose their case in 10 minutes."

Is the LegalZoom lease for Massachusetts any good? An in-depth review of LegalZoom and its lease for Massachusetts rental property.

Is the LegalZoom lease for Massachusetts any good? What would a LegalZoom review say? I paid for the $29 “Deluxe Lease Package” to see for myself before re-leasing my next tenant. Here is my review of LegalZoom’s lease. Remember: I am not an attorney. Consult with an attorney before making any decisions about your rental forms.

The Cheapest Rental Form Online

My goal was to get the cheapest MA-specific rental form I could buy online that claimed to be valid for Massachusetts. (Yes, I currently use the MassLandlords rental forms which are free with my membership, but it’s always a good idea to shop around!) The cheapest one I found is available at for $12.99. This form can’t be downloaded, and instead must be mailed. In my mind, that’s not a real online rental form.

The next cheapest I found was at LegalZoom. For $29, they promise a 12-page, personalized residential lease, state-required disclosures, security deposit receipts, “late rent payment warning,” and unlimited revisions for one week. This comes with a “100% satisfaction guarantee.” Sounds great!

The LegalZoom Lease Questionnaire

The LegalZoom lease starts with a questionnaire that they say will take you ten minutes to complete. It took me about that, a little less.

At first it was pretty ho-hum. “Enter your name, enter the tenant’s name.” When they offered to put in a late fee, I sat up better in my chair. Were they going to advise a Massachusetts-compliant fee? Well in fact, yes, they did!

There was a fill-in-the-blank box where I could enter any number of days, and a warning that said, paraphrasing, “Click help to see the late fee law in your state.” And sure enough, their help correctly indicated that Massachusetts requires a 30 day wait before any late fee can be applied. So I entered “30” in the box.

Next they asked me about what deposits I was going to take. Security, last month’s rent, and fill-in-the-blank. Their questionnaire said, “Please note that the enforceability of any provisions you add in this section is subject to applicable law.” I wanted to test them so I wrote “pet deposit” into the form. (I understand these to be illegal in Massachusetts.) The questionnaire didn’t object, which in my view, is an error hardly made up for by the disclaimer.

When I finished the questionnaire, I was presented with a preview of my lease and options to pay $29 for one that would be editable for one week, $49 for one that would editable for six months, or $0 for a free lease for ‘informational purposes’. If I wanted to pay $49 every six months, I would pay $98 for unlimited leases each year, just like MassLandlords. Surprisingly similar pricing!

Nice Things in the LegalZoom Lease

They promised me 12 pages, and I got 12 pages of meat and another 15 pages of required lead disclosures. I also got the statutorily required “Statement of Conditions” language because I checked “yes” to security deposit.

They defined any guest for more than 7 days in a month as an unlawful resident. That sounds fine.

They prohibited both assigning and subletting. Very thorough!

They continued the long-standing paranoia landlords seem to have against “water filled furniture.” I don’t know if anyone ever has had a water bed explode in a third-floor apartment, but why be the first?

Weirdly, although they don’t reference any state statute, they do reference the “Federal Communication Commission’s Over-the-Air Reception Devices Rule (47 C.F.R. Section 1.4000)”, which seems to be an incomplete reference to 47 CFR Chapter 1, Subchapter A, Part 1, Subpart S, Section 1.4. This rule permits tenants the right to install dishes in areas they exclusively control. There are many other laws that might have been cited but were not.

Not So Nice Things in the LegalZoom Lease

There was a mysterious number “4” printed in the section on “Security Deposits.” “The Landlord shall return4 the full amount...” Since they only provide the PDF and not an editable file, I couldn’t delete the “4”.

Speaking of security deposits, they say the landlord will return the deposit “less any amounts deducted for any authorized purpose, in such a manner as mandated by applicable laws or regulations.” That’s technically true but vague to the point of being unhelpful in MA. My understanding is that we’re only allowed to deduct for damages above and beyond “reasonable wear and tear.” LegalZoom’s lease does mention “ordinary wear and tear” under “Yielding Possession,” but that section doesn’t reference the security deposit. What can I deduct? They’re no help.

In the LegalZoom lease, there’s one section about “rules and regulations” that says, “The Tenant has received from the Landlord a copy of the existing rules and regulations governing the Premises.” That sounds fine, but it must be less enforceable than attaching the rules as an exhibit or addendum to the lease itself.

The “Entry by Landlord” section is clearly not Massachusetts-specific. Under Mass Law Chapter 186 Section 15(B), landlords may enter to show a mortgagee or its agents. LegalZoom makes no mention of this in their rental agreement, although they do mention other reasons. LegalZoom also says that the landlord will give the minimum notice required by state law, which made me wonder whether there was a minimum notice. I hadn’t heard of one in Massachusetts!

LegalZoom Lets you Make an Illegal Lease?

At the start of the Questionnaire, I told LegalZoom that the lease was going to be for an apartment in Massachusetts. I revised my lease to add a 15-day late fee, which is not allowed in Massachusetts, but LegalZoom were perfectly happy to let me do that. The same criticism could be leveled at the MassLandlords rental forms. You could easily download the Word version of MassLandlords’ form and change “30” to “15,” or commit other crimes against housing, like a pet deposit.

Speaking of pets, their section on pets made a good effort, but like most, I think they may have misunderstood the difference between service animals and emotional support animals.

LegalZoom says, “The Tenant (including any guests or invitees of the Tenant) may not keep any pets on the Premises, except for a trained guide animal, signal animal, or service animal needed by a blind, deaf, or disabled person.”  This seems to require the training of a service animal, but seems not to make an allowance for the emotional benefit provided by a support animal. I was under the impression that these were different things, that I had to make a reasonable accommodation for both types, and that because of privacy laws I might never know which type I had.

Finally, LegalZoom has an arbitration clause, which is common in corporate contracts. LegalZoom says, “THE PARTIES HEREBY WAIVE ANY RIGHTS THEY MAY HAVE TO TRIAL BY JURY IN REGARD TO ARBITRABLE CLAIMS.” I am not an attorney, but I was under the impression that no consumer or renter could waive a right guaranteed to them in the state constitution.

Our state constitution reads, “In all controversies concerning property, and in all suits between two or more persons, except in cases in which it has heretofore been otherways used and practiced, the parties have a right to a trial by jury.” If arbitration is common practice in any part of MA landlord-tenant law, it has so far eluded me. I would be embarrassed if a judge saw this in my lease and there turned out to be no “arbitrable claims.” It would look like I was trying to pull a fast one on my tenant. I think I would have to Sharpie this section out if I used the LegalZoom lease. A lease you wouldn’t care to show the judge is no kind of legal protection.

Review of LegalZoom Lease: The Verdict

I think I’ll stick with the MassLandlords rental forms for my apartments. As far as I have heard, the MassLandlords lease has nothing that would raise a judge’s eyebrows the way the LegalZoom arbitration clause would.

MassLandlords has lots of clauses that LegalZoom doesn’t, including water submetering, mold, security deposit receipts and annual statements, and much more. It’s a long list. Plus, if I’m being frugal, the forms are already free with my dues.

I guess in that sense, the MassLandlords lease is already the cheapest online lease: you can’t beat free!

Always consult with an attorney before taking any action that could impact your legal rights, especially if you decide to use LegalZoom.