What property owners need to know about renting
Looking to rent out your property? Check out our tips for property owners before you do.
References and proof of employment are ways of screening prospective tenants. If a prospective tenant cannot provide references or does not have a sufficient or steady source of income, consider having a cosigner on the lease. You can also find reliable tenants by employing a tenant screening service or a credit reporting agency.
TYPES OF TENANCIES
You can offer a tenant a lease, which typically runs for one year, or a verbal or written tenancy-at-will agreement, which runs from month to month. A tenancy-at-will offers more flexibility, but a lease offers more security.
SECURITY DEPOSITS and LAST MONTH’S RENT
At the beginning of the tenancy, you may legally require a tenant to pay the last month’s rent in advance and a security deposit in an amount no greater than the equivalent of one month’s rent.
If you collect them, you must give proper receipts, pay interest on an annual basis and in the case of the security deposit, put the money in a separate interest-bearing account in a bank located in Massachusetts. It is important that you become familiar with and comply with the strict requirements of the security deposit law.
TIMELY RENT PAYMENT
You are entitled to the rent on the day specified by the terms of the tenancy. You may charge a late fee only if there is a written agreement in place that allows it. This fee cannot be charged unless the rent is at least 30 days late.
LEGAL AND ILLEGAL FEES
You may legally charge a tenant for first and last month’s rent, security deposit and fee. It is illegal for you to charge holding or pet fees, or a broker’s fee (unless you are licensed broker).
REGISTRATION and INSPECTIONS
Landlords must register their rental units with Inspectional Services and post their contact information in the building. Rental units — except for those in one- to six-unit, owner-occupied dwellings and public property — must be inspected at least one every five years. This ensures that they are in compliance with the State Sanitary Code.
HEAT AND UTILITIES
A tenant may only be required to pay for utilities if there are separate meters for each service charged. If you are holding the tenant responsible to pay for heat and hot water, it is best to put that agreement in writing.
Every rental unit must have a working stove and oven, screens for each window below the fifth floor from April to October and working locks on all windows and entry or exit doors. You are not required to provide refrigerators, blinds, shades, or laundry facilities, but if you provide them or other amenities, you must maintain them.
If you and your tenant have a dispute that you cannot resolve, consider mediation. Mediation is an informal process in which you and your tenant can try to reach a resolution with the help of an impartial mediator.
If you need to evict a tenant, you must terminate the tenancy with proper written notice and file a summary process action in court. If you are converting a building with four or more rental units into condominiums, the tenant have extra protections against eviction under a Boston Ordinance.
Many landlords hire attorneys to assist them with what can be a lengthy and complicated process.