COVID-19 information
For the latest updates, please visit our coronavirus (COVID-19) website:
City department hours
City Hall is open to the public on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. If you need to visit a department, you must make an appointment.
Back to top
Last updated:

Tenant rights and responsibilities

There are certain rules that landlords and tenants need to follow to meet City housing codes. Here’s what you need to know.

Still have questions? Contact:
Inspectional Services
1010 Massachusetts Avenue
5th Floor
Boston, MA 02118

What you need to do as a tenant

You can’t damage your landlord’s property. Landlords can protect themselves with pre-rental inspections, security deposits, and tenant screening.

Violating housing codes

If you sign a lease for a certain number of tenants, and more move in afterward, the landlord can evict you. A landlord also has the right to file a complaint against you if you violate housing codes. This includes things like:

  • not giving them access to make repairs
  • not handling your trash
  • having a rodent or insect infestation
  • not taking care of your apartment, or
  • causing damage to structural areas.

Your rights as a tenant

You can file a complaint with our department if your landlord isn't meeting housing codes. We suggest you speak with them first to try and fix the situation, but you don't have to.

Tenants need to have access to the basement if circuit breakers, utility meters, or oil tanks are down there.  Your landlord is responsible for snow and ice removal in common areas and walkways. They have 24 hours after the end of a storm to clear the area.


Landlords must give you “reasonable notice” before coming to your unit to make non-emergency repairs. Reasonable notice is at least 24 hours. We recommend written notice, but it's not required.

Landlords must meet all housing rules, even if they claim they didn't know them. Not knowing is not an acceptable excuse.


You only have to pay for utilities that serve your apartment.

If you share a meter with other units, the landlord can’t ask you to pay the utilities. This is called cross-metering and it's illegal.  You can agree to pay for lighting in a common area, but only if the landlord tells other tenants about it.

If you think your unit is cross-metered, you can file a complaint. We'll do a follow-up inspection and give your landlord a citation if there is cross-metering. We'll also give you a copy of the citation. You have 60 days to mail a copy to your utility company and get a refund. You'll need to include your landlord’s name and address.

File a cross-metering complaint