Your Rights and Working With Your Landlord or Property Manager
Your Rights as a Tenant
The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office wants to ensure that all student and scholar renters are aware of their tenant* rights. Please review this link to learn about landlord-tenant rights and responsibilities and a student renter's guide.
*Tenant means a person who occupies land or property rented from a landlord (also known as YOU!).
Questions to ask your property manager/landlord
You should prepare a list of questions and get them answered by your property manager before signing a lease. Below are standard questions you should consider but it is not an exhaustive list. Students should also conduct their own research on to what to ask.
Questions you can consider asking:
- What is the monthly price?
- How many bedrooms/bathrooms does the unit have?
- What utilities are included in the rent (water, gas, electricity)?
- What is the average cost of gas and electricity per month?
- When will the apartment will be available?
- How much is the security deposit?
- What is the parking availability?
- Are there laundry facilities located on site?
- Who is responsible for repairs?
- Is the lease an individual or a joint lease?
- What amenities are included? (amenities are extras provided: exercise room, storage, pool, etc.)
- What is the bus schedule?
- Are there nearby stores?
Rental Application, Lease Agreements, and Deposits
Submit a Rental Application
Once you have found an apartment you wish to rent, you will need to complete a rental application and pay an application fee, which is typically $25-$50 per person. This fee covers the background check required. If you do not have an SSN, ask the landlord if they will accept alternatives to an SSN or credit check.
Do NOT pay a security deposit until you have reviewed the terms of the lease.
After your application has been approved, you will need to review your lease agreement then pay a deposit, first month's rent, and last month's rent. This is standard in the U.S. This should be paid in the form of a money order or check. Do NOT pay in cash. The landlord must return the refundable part of the deposit within two weeks of the time you vacate an apartment, minus any listed deductions for damages or cleaning. If you pay a deposit and then change your mind, you are not entitled to receive this money back.
Failure to follow the terms of the lease agreement and pay your rent can lead to eviction from the property.
If you have a disagreement with your landlord, never violate your lease by ceasing payment on your rent.
You should confirm that the lease is for 12 months, month by month, or other.
The lease should indicate what your rent payment is and late fees are, including what date of the month it is due.
You should not sign a lease with blank spaces or statements that you do not agree with or are not part of your agreement.
Get any changes and promises in writing so you can ensure it is written in your contract. If the seller will not put something in writing, it is likely they will not follow through on this promise. All contract changes should be updated before you sign it. Keep a copy of your lease.
Your lease should have a specific start and end date on it. There should be instructions on how to extend your lease.
Canceling a contract will be difficult once signed, as both parties must agree to the cancellation. You can cancel in certain circumstances: the manager misrepresented or lied about their property or the contract allows you to cancel within certain circumstances. Deciding you want to cancel the lease does NOT mean it is canceled; you are still responsible for the terms of the lease until it has expired.
Right of Entry and Repairs
Your property owner has the right to enter your apartment to inspect and make repairs. They will typically tell you ahead of time that they will enter. If there is an emergency, they may enter after requesting entry at your door. If you are not home and there is an emergency, they may enter anyway.
Your property owner is responsible for most major repairs required so you should contact them within a reasonable time. Emergencies: burst pipe, smell of gas, etc. should be reported immediately.