A lease between a landlord and a tenant is a contract that can be enforced by the landlord. In fact, when a tenant breaches the rental agreement a landlord has rights which he or she can pursue to enforce the agreements between the parties.
A tenant who breaches an agreement should not be allowed to continue to do so. The attorneys at the Katz Law Group understand the issues that arise in these cases, and how to handle the intricacies of breach of rental agreement issues.
Rental & Lease Agreements in Massachusetts
Massachusetts is a "landlord-friendly" state, with laws that protect the rights of landlords in providing the service they offer. There are, of course, rules and laws that landlords must follow when creating rental and lease agreements in order to protect the tenant.
Every rental agreement in the state must contain certain terms, including:
- name, phone number, and address of:
- the owner of the rental property,
- the person who is responsible for maintenance of the property, and
- who can receive copies of court filings and other official notices;
- the term of the lease;
- conditions of occupancy;
- a description of the property;
- the amount due in rent each month; and
- the due date for any rent.
Failure to include necessary terms can result in the unenforceability of the lease or rental agreement. It is crucial that the landlord ensures that the basic requirements of a lease are included at all times. This is an important way in which you can protect your rights as a landlord from the very beginning.
Common Breaches of the Lease
Certain issues commonly arise that constitute a breach of the lease or rental agreement. Each of these may be the basis for enforcement of the terms of the agreement.
Failure to Pay Rent
The most common breach of a rental agreement occurs when a tenant fails to pay rent. Landlords provide service in allowing another person to live in property the landlord owns. Landlords deserve the agreed-upon rent as compensation for that service. As a landlord, you can enforce your right to receive rent both in the amount and in the manner, it is required to be paid.
Tenants have a duty not to damage the property in which they live, besides normal wear and tear. When a tenant causes significant damage to the property, eviction or other remedies may be appropriate. Damage to walls, structure, appliances, and much more can be remedied under the law.
Too Many Tenants
The rental agreement usually contemplates how many people will be living in the home under the lease. When a tenant tries to allow more people to live in the house than what was agreed upon, this is an issue for which the landlord can seek a remedy.
Issues with Pets
If your lease has a "no pet clause" or limits the number of pets to the pets the tenant already owns, violations of that clause may be cause for a remedy such as eviction or compensation for any damage they cause of the pet to the property.
Unauthorized pets can cause significant damage to your rental property, especially if you end up with a tenant who "hoards" animals. Enforcement of your rules against or limiting pets is important.
Illegal Conduct on the Premises
A tenant is not allowed to engage in illegal conduct on the rental premises. This could include, but is not limited to:
- using the home for prostitution;
- dealing drugs out of the home;
- using the home to store stolen property;
- manufacturing drugs in the rental premises; or
- selling illegal weapons from the home.
Illegal conduct by the tenant on the premises is often grounds for an eviction action.
Enforcing a Rental Agreement - Eviction
When a tenant breaches a lease, one of the possible avenues to obtain a remedy is through an eviction action. There are three main reasons a landlord can evict a tenant:
- Failure to pay rent,
- Illegal conduct on the rented premises, or
- Breach of the lease agreement.
A landlord must give a tenant enough time to fix the issue, and the time the landlord must allow depends on the reason for the eviction.
- Complaint - When an appropriate violation has occurred, and that violation has not been cured by the tenant, the landlord can serve a summons and complaint on the tenant. The landlord can file the complaint in court after between seven and thirty days have elapsed.
- Answer - A tenant is allowed to respond to the allegations against him or her, and raise any possible counterclaims at the same time.
- Decision and Appeal - The judge will eventually decide the case, and both the landlord and tenant have a ten-day window in which to appeal the decision.
- Eviction Order - Once the decision to evict is official, the landlord is given the order ten days after the decision. The tenant must be provided at least 48 hours of notice of the actual physical removal from the rental premises.
- Stay of Execution - If the tenant can prove to the court an important reason to allow for more time before moving out, a stay can be granted for up to six months.
- Eviction - On a certain date, the tenant is required to leave the premises. If he or she fails to do so, the tenant can be removed by the sheriff.
Eviction is one of the most powerful tools a landlord has against a non-compliant tenant. Choosing whether to use that tool is an important decision, and experienced legal counsel can help you decide whether that is the appropriate remedy for your situation.
Consult a Massachusetts Landlord Attorney
When a tenant breaches a lease or rental agreement, it is important that you, as a landlord, fully enforce your rights. Massachusetts law grants landlords different remedies including the right to evict a tenant, and with experienced legal help, you can effectively protect your rights.
At the Katz Law Group, we are highly experienced in the area of rental agreement enforcement and have the years of experience necessary to protect your rights. Contact us today for a consultation.