Housing Resources

Guide Me: I have a housing problem | Massachusetts Legal Resource Finder (masslrf.org)

Write to your landlord

Write a letter to your landlord. Tell them about the bad conditions. It is important to write to the landlord. Sometimes a landlord claims they never had notice. If you write to them, put the date on the letter and keep a copy. You will have proof you gave them notice of the bad conditions.

See some sample Demand for Repair letters.

Get an inspection

If your landlord does not respond to your request to make repairs, get an inspection. Every city and town has a Board of Health or Code Enforcement Department. This agency is responsible for making sure that your apartment meets the minimum standards for health and safety explained in the state sanitary code.

Withhold rent - only if you can save it

Withholding rent can be a good way to get your landlord to make repairs.

Only try this strategy after you have written to your landlord about the bad conditions and gotten an inspection.

You need to be careful if you decide to withhold your rent. Some landlords will turn it around and try to evict you for non-payment of rent. But they will not be able to evict you if you withheld your rent correctly.

Only withhold your rent if:

    • The landlord knows about the bad conditions in your apartment.
    • You were current with your rent when you wrote to the landlord about the bad conditions in your apartment
    • No one in your household or your guest caused the bad conditions, and
    • You can save the rent you withhold separately from your other money and not spend it.

Sue your landlord

Massachusetts has strong laws that require landlords to make repairs. Sometimes these laws can result in your right to have you rent abated or reduced – even if you are behind on your rent. If your landlord has not been repairing bad conditions, you may be able to sue your landlord for money. Learn more about how to sue your landlord.

Hire a lawyer

In Massachusetts, many of the laws that require landlords to make repairs also require the landlord to pay for your lawyer, if you win your lawsuit. This is called "fee shifting." You may be able to get a lawyer to represent you and not have to pay them. To find a lawyer who specializes in representing tenants, see MassLegalHelp.org/lawyer-referral

Learn more about Getting Repairs Made and Your Rights to Safe and Habitable Housing.

The suggestions provided above are not legal advice and are provided as information only.

Whenever you have a legal problem, it is always best to talk to a lawyer who can give you advice that is uniquely tailored to your situation. The Massachusetts Legal Resource Finder, www.MassLRF.org, can help you find lawyers and other legal help resources in your area.

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For links to documents above, please see Occupant's Legal Rights and Responsibilities

Massachusetts Sanitation Code sets standards through Minimum Standards of Fitness for Human Habitation (State Sanitary Code, Chapter II) and  can be found here: 105 CMR 410 (mass.gov)

Questions about lead paint? Please read through Childhood Lead Poisoning | Mansfield, MA (mansfieldma.com).  Massachusetts Lead Law says owners must remove or cover lead paint hazards in homes built before 1978 if a child under 6 lives there. If you live in a house built before 1978 and are unsure about lead paint, please contact the Health Department at 508-261-7366.

Questions about mold? Please read through Mold | Mansfield, MA (mansfieldma.com)

HEALTH at HOME

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office works to ensure compliance with environmental and public health laws and to ensure that landlords, tenants, and owners have accurate information to ensure compliance with the law and safe and healthy homes. Home environmental health risks can create significant sources of illness or injury and can affect residents’ ability to safely enjoy their homes, whether they own or lease them. A spectrum of federal, state, and local agencies regulates and provides assistance for issues related to environmental health at home.

Click here for more information about HEALTH at HOME.