9 Legal Things Every Boston Property Owner Should Know

If you're a rental property owner in the Boston area, there are many things to know and understand about your responsibilities. Some items make you a successful property owner that attracts the best renters, and other pieces of critical information can keep you out of legal hot water.

Where do you start? Fortunately, our Boston property management company has compiled a list of nine critical items every rental real estate investor should know!

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1. Know the Federal Laws

A critical law that property owners should know is the Fair Housing Act. This law protects people from discrimination based on their race, sex, religion, disability, and familial status. In addition, understanding this law helps investors conduct legal tenant screenings and avoid lawsuits!

In addition, investors should understand the Fair Credit Reporting Act. This law governs how credit information may be used and distributed. For example, it prohibits unauthorized information acquisition, such as the information rental property owners may require for a tenant screening.

2. How to Create a Legally-Binding Lease

A legally-binding lease agreement is a contract between you and your renter that sets out the rules for renting your property. A good lease agreement will define everything from how much rent is payable each month to what happens if one party wants to leave early or not renew their tenancy.

A well-written lease agreement should also include clauses that outline who is responsible for repairs and maintenance, whether pets are allowed in the property, and any requirements for notice of termination by either side. As part of the lease signing, a property owner can supply a resident with a move-in checklist to welcome them home!

3. Required Disclosures for Your Lease Agreement

Rental property owners are legally required to provide certain disclosures in the rental agreement. Lease disclosures can include:

  • Mold notification
  • Notice of sexual offenders
  • Recent deaths that may have occurred at the property
  • Lead-based paint disclosure
  • Other possible health or safety concerns

If a free lease agreement template doesn't include the appropriate disclosures, a property manager and your attorney can help you draft a custom lease agreement.

4. Creating a Safe Environment for Residents

Every landlord should know how to create a safe environment for residents. A rental property must have heat when it's cold, running water, enough hot water, and plumbing that works correctly to be habitable. A rental property owner also needs to be aware of legal requirements regarding renters with disabilities that may require reasonable accommodations such as ramps or handicap-accessible parking spaces. 

5. Repair and Maintenance Responsibilities

As a rental property owner, you're legally obligated to maintain your rental unit. That includes fixing anything that's broken as quickly as possible.

Investors should also set up a routine property maintenance schedule that includes regularly checking the essential items in your rental property like the HVAC system, appliances, and lights. With an effective property management system to help you track maintenance, you'll be able to catch problems before they escalate, saving time and money.

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6. Security Deposit Regulations

Landlords must know the Massachusetts laws regarding security deposits, as some deductions are allowed while others are not. Be aware that you can deduct unpaid rent from a tenant's security deposit. Still, you must notify tenants in writing when making any deductions for damages or cleaning after renters move out. In addition, owners must return a resident's security deposit and any interest earned on it within 30 days after they leave.

7. Rules About a Resident's Right to Privacy

Property managers can tell you that your renter has an expectation of privacy in the rental property. To follow landlord and tenants laws, property owners must have cause to enter a renter's unit and avoid entering an occupied property without giving reasonable notice. When an investor violates this right of privacy for tenants, it could be considered a violation of Massachusetts law.

8. What to Do With an Abandoned Property

When a tenant leaves without a notice to vacate and the property is left in shambles, property owners must know what to do with abandoned items. In most cases, property owners must inform the renter of how to claim the property, the cost for storage, where to claim it, and how long they have to do so before discarding any items to clear out the home. 

9. Criminal Activity in Your Boston Rental Property

If a property owner becomes aware of any criminal activity in one of their rental units, they must report it to authorities. Failure to do so could be seen as providing a service for a criminal enterprise and could lead to severe penalties.

Work With a Boston Property Management Company to Build Knowledge!

If you own rental properties in the Greater Boston Area, knowing these nine things is essential! However, if this seems like a lot of information to apply to your real estate investing strategy, a property manager can help. Let CHARLESGATE Property Management be your property management partner for day-to-day operations and more long-term success! Reach out to learn more about our concierge approach to residential property management services.

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