November 25, 2015 | Share
Living Conditions Can Provide an Effective Defense Against Eviction
After making repeated attempts to get landlords to make needed repairs to their apartments, many tenants see no other options than to withhold rent to send a message. The details behind these issues are paramount in determining when rent withholding is a legally-viable option.
However, even though you may be within your legal rights to withhold rent until your unit meets certain standards, this is of little comfort when you receive an eviction notice. A Boston tenant eviction lawyer can help you retain your legal rights in these cases while reducing the stress of a complex legal process.
MA Renters Have the Right to Units That Meet Certain Health Standards
Most people do not stop to analyze conditions that meet the basic needs of any renter, but the state of Massachusetts has done this important work. In fact, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health lists nearly 50 specific minimum standards that must be met for human habitation. These standards cover every imaginable aspect of a livable dwelling, from the required components in a bathroom to reasonable unit temperatures.
The standards are highly-detailed and renters who believe their dwellings do not meet the basic requirements may have a valid reason for complaining.
Four Important Steps for Handling Unlivable Conditions
In many cases, notifying a landlord of substandard living conditions sets the wheels in motion to start needed repairs. When landlords refuse to take action or delay too long, however, four basic steps can protect your rights.
- Step 1: Capture evidence. Prepare for the possibility of a courtroom case, even if you have not yet received an eviction notice for non-payment of rent. Make a list of complaints. Take pictures of damaged areas or anything that does not meet code, if applicable. Find witnesses willing to testify to substandard conditions. Of course, make sure you have evidence that you have contacted the landlord in writing, without a response within a reasonable time period.
- Step 2: Schedule an inspection. Contact your local City or Town Hall to find out who handles inspections and make an appointment for someone to look at your home. Be prepared to present the inspector with a list of issues and the dates when your landlord knew about them.
- Step 3: Go through the inspection, and get documentation. The inspector prepares a code report during the visit. Ask for a signed and certified copy of this report, along with any repair orders and a receipt for the return of service sent to the landlord.
- Step 4: Make your unit available for repairs. Naturally, you must allow reasonable time for the landlord to respond to the order — and allow access to your unit.
If repairs are not made within a reasonable time period, you may have the right to withhold rent. However, the law has strict rules governing rent withholding. Even if you do everything by the book, the landlord may choose to begin the eviction process.
This is why the best time to seek legal guidance is before you begin withholding rent — or even when you first realize that the landlord does not intend to make repairs. The Law Offices of Shaun A. Hannafin can advise you of your rights, guide you through all preliminary steps and help you prepare in the event that you receive a notice of eviction. Call us at (617) 848-4572 to get the full legal support you need.
Posted in Landlord-Tenant Information