By Andrew Bardetti, South Coastal Counties Legal Services
Imagine this—you’ve been renting the same apartment for ten years at $500 a month when a new landlord takes over. A couple of months later, your landlord comes to you asking for $1,000 a month. What are your options? And what about that leaky sink your landlord hasn’t fixed?
First, your landlord may not increase the rent if: (1) you do not agree to the rent increase; (2) you have a written agreement that has not ended (such as a lease for a year that does not give your landlord the right to increase the rent during the year); (3) you have a Section 8 voucher and the housing agency has not approved the increase and/or you did not agree to the increase; (4) the increase is to get back at you for something you did, like reporting bad conditions; or (5) you did not get proper advance notice of the increase.
For those tenants who do not have a lease, your landlord must give you at least 30 days’ advance written notice to end your tenancy. Your landlord cannot ask that you pay more in rent and then try to evict you in court because you refused to pay the increased amount—your tenancy must first be terminated before your landlord can proceed to court to evict you.
When you are facing a rent increase, you have several options. You can negotiate with your landlord, and also speak with other tenants. You can choose to pay the increase, but be sure you can afford to do so—once you pay that new amount, it will most likely be your new rent moving forward. You may want to ask for a long lease if you are paying an amount that is difficult for you to afford. Last, you can refuse the increase and keep paying the old amount. Whichever option you choose, when your landlord asks you to pay an amount you cannot afford, you may want to start applying to affordable housing options.
Second, about that leaky sink—your landlord has an obligation to ensure that your apartment or home is kept up to code. If you find something that needs repair, tell your landlord as soon as possible and document the issue. If the problem is not repaired in a reasonable amount of time, you may want to send your landlord a letter informing them of the issue again. If that fails, and especially if something like your heat or water is broken, then you may want to call your local Board of Health. As mentioned above, your landlord may not evict you for reporting a bad condition or for contacting the Board of Health.
For more information on your rights as a tenant, you may visit masslegalhelp.org/housing.
The information contained here does not constitute legal advice and is intended to provide a basic understanding of landlord-tenant law. This information is provided by South Coastal Counties Legal Services (SCCLS) which provides free legal services to eligible clients. There are no income criteria for adults age 60+ but individual representation is prioritized to those with the greatest economic and social need. SCCLS has offices in New Bedford, Fall River, Brockton, and Hyannis. For more information, please call our intake line at (800) 244-9023.