Tenants’ Rights in Boston

Q: Can my landlord evict me at the end of my lease, even if I paid on time and did nothing wrong?

A: Yes. Your lease is a contract for use of the property. When the lease ends, your landlord can choose to no longer rent to you.

Q: Does this new Boston law stop landlords from raising the rent at the end of the lease?

A: No. Landlords can choose to not renew with a good tenant at the end of any lease cycle (or any month of a tenancy at will). A landlord can then rent their property for any price the market will bear.

When a neighborhood is gentrifying, landlords profit from evicting tenants who pay moderate rents. The landlords can then choose other tenants who can pay higher monthly costs. (Usually after a renovation of the property.)

The Jim Brooks Home Rule Petition aims at giving tenants information to challenge landlords who have not been treating their tenants legally. This includes telling the tenants about advocacy groups who practice legal tactics to stay evictions.

How many bill-paying tenants are being evicted, so landlords can raise the rent? That is hard to track. The Jim Brooks Home Rule Petition creates a system for tracking lease non-renewals.

What requirements are added for Boston landlords by the Jim Brooks Home Rule Petition?

  • Landlords must inform tenants of what rights they have, thirty days prior to getting a notice of eviction.
  • Landlords must inform the City of non-renewals of leases. This allows the City to track how many tenants are being evicted by landlords, even though there is no violation by the tenants.

The Boston City Council passed the Jim Brooks Home Rule Petition. But, this cannot become law in Boston until it is approved by the State Legislature. Boston cannot make this change by municipal right. Want to help? Call or write your legislator and support the Jim Brooks Home Rule Petition. (more on Home Rule.)

Of course, my local Realtor® association is against it.

What is in this law?

  • The Act requires landlords or foreclosing owners to provide tenants information concerning their legal rights and resources when serving a notice to quit or other notice of lease non-renewal or expiration. A “notice to quit” is the letter a tenant gets when they are told that they have to move out.
  • In a no-fault non-renewal, the landlord has to give notice at least a month before the notice to quit.
  • The landlord also must file a notice with the City of Boston, so that Boston can track the number of tenants leaving their apartments because of non-renewal.

Remember that the landlord has the right not to renew. So, tenants are not getting additional rights; just an extra month of notice and some information about their rights as tenants.

For foreclosed owners, living in their properties, there are some additional rights. These stay eviction unless specific condition are met. (These include the foreclosed owner paying rent, keeping the place in good condition, and similar lease-like requirements.)  source. 

These landlords are exempt from these new requirements:

  • Small property owners (under seven units) who live in Massachusetts.
  • Property owners who rent to Section 8 tenants.

 What is not in this law:

  • There are no legal restrictions on landlords who want to raise their rent at the end of a lease cycle.
  • Attempts to add protections against rent increases for elderly or disabled tenants and long term renters with children in the school system were rejected from the bill.  source 

Will this new regulation stop gentrification in Boston?

Certainly not. What it might do is discourage some landlords from evicting moderate income tenants because it might cost them more to do so. (The landlords who have been violating laws could face long court processes in order to evict.)

An example of how home-rule tenant-favoring laws affect gentrification, just look at the Somerville Condo Review Board. In Somerville, developers have to give tenants a full year of notice, if their building is being converted from a rental to a condo. We all know that condo conversion has not been discouraged by that. 

What you can do

The Jim Brooks Home Rule Petition is not law until the State Legislature passes it. If this Petition is stopped, it encourages same-old-same-old. If it is passed, it is one step toward discouraging gentrification by making it potentially more expensive for bigger landlords.

Call or write to your legislator. This is where you find them.



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