Breaking a Lease in Plymouth, Massachusetts - Know the Laws
Tenants in Massachusetts have certain rights and responsibilities when it comes to breaking a lease. And as a landlord, it’s important that you familiarize yourself with your obligations in order to avoid potential tussles with your tenant.
The following article will cover the justified reasons and unjustified reasons for breaking a lease.
Rental Agreement in Massachusetts
In the state of Massachusetts, a rental agreement between a landlord and a tenant can be made either orally or through written text. The rights and responsibilities of each party are contained under Chapter. 186 of Massachusetts laws.
When drafting a lease or a rental agreement, it’s important that you make it as clear and concise as possible. Also, make sure your tenant has understood it properly before agreeing to sign it. Among other terms, let them know the consequences of breaking their lease early.
In addition, let them know that they have a responsibility to notify you before moving out. They cannot just wake up one day and leave. In Massachusetts, tenants on a month to month lease must notify their landlords at least 30 days prior to leaving, for instance.
On your part, you have a responsibility to find a replacement tenant to “mitigate damages” after a tenant leaves. You cannot just simply wait for the lease to end and then take the tenant to court for the due rent, or claim the security deposit. You must take reasonable steps to re-rent the unit.
Finally, a comprehensive lease agreement should state whether or not a tenant has the right to sublet the unit. If you allow it, then you may want to let your tenant know of the requirements. For instance, your right to screen the sublet to gauge their suitability to live there.
If you don’t allow it, then make sure to state it clearly on the lease. You may also want to emphasize that it’d be a serious violation of the lease if they do it anyway.
Unjustified Reasons to Break a Lease in Massachusetts
Generally speaking, the following reasons, on their own, are generally not enough to release a tenant from their lease obligations. As such, the tenant would not have any legal protection against penalties for failing to honor the lease.
- The tenant bought a house.
- The tenant separated with their partner.
- The tenant needed to upgrade or downgrade.
- The tenant relocated to a new city for a new job.
- The tenant moved in with a new partner.
If a tenant breaks their lease for the aforementioned reasons, they risk tangible financial and legal consequences. After all, a lease or a rental agreement is a contractual agreement. If breaking the lease is the only option the tenant has, their best option would be to seek a mutual agreement with the landlord.
Justified Reasons to Break a Lease in Massachusetts
As a landlord in Massachusetts, knowing the justified reasons that a tenant can use to break the lease is important. The following are the reasons a tenant can use to break their lease early without a penalty.
Early Termination Clause
Have you included an early termination clause in your lease agreement? If you have, then that may give your tenant the legal justification to break their lease early. Usually, an early termination clause requires tenants to meet two conditions prior to moving out.
One of the conditions is paying a penalty fee. The usual penalty fee is the equivalent of the rent of two months. The other condition has to do with the minimum notice requirement which is usually two months.
Active Military Duty
A tenant who is an active service member is protected by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) when duty calls and they need to change their station or have been deployed.
To end the lease in accordance with the act, the tenant must meet certain requirements. One, they must provide you proof that they moved in prior to entering active duty. Two, they must provide you proof to show that they intend to be on active duty for more than ninety days. And three, they must provide you with a written notice which is accompanied by the deployment letters.
Once the tenant has met all these conditions, they must then wait at least 30 days after the next rent period in order for their lease to terminate.
In the state of Massachusetts, the term servicemember refers to members belonging to the following military cadres.
- Armed forces.
- Activated National Guard.
- Commissioned corps of the Public Health Service.
- Commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Unit Is Not Habitable
Landlords have a responsibility to provide their tenants with a habitable unit. The following are some reasons that may make your unit uninhabitable.
- Pest infestation.
- Non-functional utilities such as gas, water, or electricity.
- Excessive dirt or fifth.
Tenants have an equal responsibility of ensuring they maintain their unit to the required habitability standards. The MA Gen. Law §111-127A is the piece of legislation that outlines the “implied warranty of habitability” in Massachusetts. Familiarize yourself with it if you haven’t.
As a landlord, you have a responsibility to treat your tenants respectfully and fairly. It’d be unlawful for you to do things like:
Entering your tenant’s unit without providing them an advance notice.
- Removing their personal belongings from their unit.
- Locking them out.
- Shutting off their utilities.
Those are just some of the things that may be considered landlord harassment, so you should be aware of them so that you can be a good landlord.
Domestic violence victims in Massachusetts have special rental provisions. You may want to check with local law enforcement regarding the state laws that may apply in a domestic violence situation.
Now you’re well-versed when it comes to breaking a lease in Massachusetts. If you have more questions, our team at Howzer Property Management can help. Since our establishment 5 years ago, we’ve been able to grow our clients’ rental incomes and reduce their stress significantly. We can do the same for you, too!
This blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state. Laws change, and this post might not be updated at the time of your reading. Please contact us for any questions you have in regards to this content or any other aspect of your property management needs.