(This piece was originally published August 12, 2013 and appeared on

It’s just around the corner. The chaos, the fear, the anxiety, the parents, the out of state drivers. The return of the students. Time to move into your new apartment, forge new friendships, ruin old ones. Allston Christmas will soon be upon us. Whether or not you are moving, expect your life to be impacted.

There are a lot of things that many people don’t know about renting in Massachusetts, and about renting in general.

Let’s get some stuff straight.

The Inspectional Services Department (ISD) is not actually designed to serve the sole purpose of fucking up your Christmas. They’re here to help us, and make sure that our landlords haven’t given us lemons. Whoever is responsible for the property you are renting should be getting regular inspections, and it is their responsibility, not yours, to make sure that your rental unit is up to snuff. If the place you are living isn’t safe and your landlord isn’t fixing it the ISD is there to help you, not to hurt you. If you’re needs aren’t being met call them (617.635.5300), don’t be afraid that you’ll get in trouble with your landlord (just tell your bonus roommates to crash somewhere else for awhile, it’s more important that you’re safe).

Tenants in Massachusetts have a lot of rights at their disposal, and it would be useful for you to familiarize yourself with them. In 1995 Mayor Menino created the Boston Rental Housing Center to help tenants and landlords with any issues related to housing. It’s there for you, you have to use it.

On the City of Boston website there is a list of top things you need to know as a tenant,

You need to familiarize yourself with these points:


When you move into an apartment, a landlord can charge you the first month’s rent, last month’s rent, a security deposit, a lock fee and a portion of a re-inspection fee. A landlord may not charge you a broker’s fee unless s/he is a licensed realtor. (Going through landlords or by owner situations is really rare, but if you find the golden ticket you make sure you don’t get cheated.)


Your landlord can legally require you to pay a security deposit and the last month’s rent in amounts equivalent to one month’s rent for each. If your landlord collects them, he/she must, among other things, give proper receipts, pay interest on an annual basis and in the case of the security deposit, put the money in a bank located in Massachusetts. (Make sure your landlord does this stuff, you want to be covered in case of absentee landlords and neglect of property.)


Before entering into a rental agreement check out the condition of the apartment. If you can’t, have a friend do it for you. You do not want to be charged for damages that existed when you moved in. (In many cases the condition of the apartment when you’re moving in is below standards. Make and itemized list of every tiny issues you can find, cracks, smudges, everything, and give this to your landlord-it’s called a condition statement. This way you won’t be charged for the former tenant’s issues.)


If you have a lease, you will probably be responsible for paying the entire rent if a roommate moves out. (Make sure that those complete strangers you find on craigslist to share in your home give you reason to believe that they won’t skip town and leave you with the burden of double rent.)


If your landlord wants to evict you, he/she must terminate your tenancy with the proper written notice and then file a summary process action in court. Ultimately, only a judge can evict you. Make sure you respond to any court documents you receive. If you do not show up to defend yourself in court, you will lose by default. (This must be delivered by a third party process server, if your landlord gives you the document they may not be legal. Make sure everything is always on the up and up.)

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