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Your Landlord is Legally Obligated to Deliver and Maintain Safe and Sanitary Housing

Your landlord has an obligation to make repairs, keep the premises weathertight, eradicate pest infestations (like mice, cockroaches, or bedbugs) and keep your home in conformance with the Massachusetts Sanitary Code 105 C.M.R. 410. Download a copy of the Mass Sanitary Code here.

The Sanitary Code is a set of regulations enforced by each city and town in the Commonwealth, generally through health departments, or in some places by Inspectional Services. If you’re not sure what department handles housing inspections, call your city hall and ask them who handles Sanitary Code enforcement.

Your landlord’s obligation to make repairs generally does not begin until he or she knows the repairs are needed, so it’s up to the tenant to give notice to the landlord. If you tell your landlord orally, and repairs aren’t made, you should send the landlord something in writing and keep a copy for yourself. Proving that your landlord knew about a problem is very important if you ever have to go to court.


If repairs which impact your health, safety, or ability to live in your apartment aren’t made, call the health department in your city or town and ask them to come do a “general inspection.” If you only ask them to look at one item, that’s all they will inspect, but if you ask for a general inspection they may find other repairs that you didn’t know the landlord is responsible for. If the landlord still refuses to make repairs, either the health department, or you on your own, can go to court and ask a judge to order the landlord to make repairs.

Additionally, you may be entitled to a rent credit if the defects diminished the value of the rental. For example, while a cracked floor tile may not justify a rent credit (sometimes called an “abatement”), something more serious, like a lack of hot water, or broken furnace, may entitle you to an offset for the period when the defect impaired the value of the rental.

And if your landlord deliberately refuses to make repairs, perhaps to force you to move out of the property, the law has stronger remedies to punish the landlord, and you may be able to recover your attorney’s fees as well. Contact Attorney Gary Allen for more information on getting repairs made if your landlord isn’t meeting its obligations.

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Attorney Gary Allen is committed to safe and sanitary housing for all renters.
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Landlords have additional responsibilities under subsidized tenancies.
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