WHAT ARE MY BASIC RIGHTS AS A TENANT? A. Discrimination A landlord cannot refuse to rent to you on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, ancestry, marital status, sexual orientation, or because you are a member of the armed forces. S/he cannot refuse you if you are a recipient of welfare or any other public assistance, or because of a handicap of any sort. It is also unlawful to deny rental to adults who have a child living with them. Massachusetts General Laws prohibit such discrimination except in dwellings of two units or less, and in dwellings of three or fewer units where the presence of a child would cause hardship to a resident who is disabled, chronically ill, or at least sixty-five years of age. S/he may not discriminate by offering you a less desirable apartment due to any of these factors, either orally or in writing. A landlord is required to post a summary of the antidiscrimination laws in a conspicuous place on the premises. To file a complaint about discrimination contact: The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination One Ashburton Place Boston, MA 02108 617/727-3990 B. Lease Your landlord is required by state law to give you a copy of your lease within thirty days of your signing it. If your landlord fails to do this s/he can be fined an amount of not more than $300. C. Unlawful Entry Your landlord may not enter your apartment without express or implied permission to do so. This could, but does not have to, include the right to inspect the premises for damage or if the apartment seems to be abandoned, or to show the apartment to a prospective lessee. Otherwise, entering the apartment can be considered trespassing. Trespassing is punishable by up to thirty days imprisonment and $100. You have a right to privacy. Your landlord is not entitled to disturb your privacy within your apartment. You may choose to have closed tenant meetings in your apartment, and your landlord may in no way record your conversations or invade your privacy in a similar manner. What are habitability rights? You are entitled to a safe and healthy living environment. The State Sanitary Code regulations protect the health, safety, and well-being of the occupants of housing and of the general public. Copies of the Code may be purchased from: The State Bookstore State House, Room 116 Boston, MA 02133 617/727-2834 The Tenant Information Packet costs $2.25. (Price quoted on March 30, 1992.) The State Sanitary Code states that your landlord may not interfere with your utilities in any way. You can sue your landlord for the equivalent of three month's rent, or actual losses (if they are more than three months rent) if your landlord has interfered with the "quiet enjoyment" of your apartment. You have the right to quiet enjoyment. Examples of a violation of this right are: A. Heat: Failure to provide heat during seasons which require heat. The landlord must provide and maintain a heating system in good operating order. From September 16 to June 14, every room must be heated to at least 68 degrees between the hours of 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. and at least 64 degrees between the hours of 11:01 p.m. and6:59 a.m., unless the tenant is required to supply the fuel under a written lease agreement. During the heating season, the maximum heat allowable is 78 degrees. B. Cockroaches and Rodents: The landlord of a dwelling of two units or more must maintain your unit free from rodents, cockroaches, and insect infestation and shall be responsible for exterminating them. C. Hot Water: The landlord must provide and maintain facilities capable of heating and supplying hot water at a temperature of between 110 and 130 degrees, in a quantity and pressure sufficient to satisfy the ordinary use of all plumbing fixtures. Exceptions are made when the occupant is required to provide fuel for the operation of the facilities under a written lease agreement. D. Kitchens: The landlord must provide, within the kitchen, a sink of sufficient size and capacity for washing dishes and kitchen utensils, a stove and oven in good repair (except when a lease agreement requires the tenant to provide his/her own stove and oven), and space and proper facilities for the installation of a refrigerator. (Note: the refrigerator does not have to be provided.) E. Safety Requirements: In every apartment building consisting oftwo or more dwellings, there must be a secure, locked door to the building. Each apartment must also have a secure, locked door. Your landlord must provide you with locks for the building as well as for your unit, if you live in a building with more than three units. A fine up to $500 can be imposed if your landlord fails to comply with these rules. F. Other rights: You have certain other rights as well, giving you grounds to contenst the following: If the landlord converts an area that was once private (accessible to you only) to a common area; assaults or threats from a person the landlord has promised to monitor; excessive noise from other tenants under the same landlord's supervision; repeated problems or inconveniences resulting from conditions that the landlord has not adequately repaired. If conditions or situations become absolutely intolerable, and these conditions have seriously interfered with the quiet enjoyment of your apartment, you can plead "constructive eviction." You will then be permitted to move out without being held accountable for the lease or additional unpaid rent. If your landlord intentionally interferes with services received by you as a tenant, such as water, heat, lighting, electricity, gas,elevator service, phone service, custodial services - s/he can be fined up to $300 or sentenced up to six months in jail. An absentee landlord is required to post his/her name, address, and phone number in each building, in an obvious location. For each day this information is not provided s/he may be fined up to $50.