Legal Question in Landlord & Tenant Law in Massachusetts

I have rented a single home with a basement apartment. Legally I can rent the whole house or both but the basement tenant must be related to the tenant of the main house upstairs to be legal. Well I rent the basement separately (no relation) and was inspected by the city and was told the tenants need to vacate within 30 days because of it being illegal to rent to two separate families. I gave them an eviction notice of 30 days. The tenants seem to think they can live there for free now and refuse to leave. My next step is to get a court eviction ..Am I correct? What are my rights as to withholding the security deposit as a months rent?...Do I need their consent ? Also what are their rights as to being rented an illegal Apartment by me...Can they withhold rent or sue me? The City has not pressured me yet...who has the more rights ??? The tenant or Landlord ?

Asked on 9/11/13, 4:42 pm

2 Answers from Attorneys

Christopher Vaughn-Martel Charles River Law Partners, LLC

Thank you for your question.

I have represented homeowners against the City of Malden in the past. The City will be somewhat patient if progress is demonstrated, but they will come down on you at some point and start to assess large fines.

Are your tenants under a written lease? Hopefully you sent them a proper notice to quit. The notice to quit should terminate the tenancy on a "rent day", typically the first of the month. That means if you sent them a notice to quit in September, they must be out by November 1. The next step, assuming they do not leave, is to file your eviction in court.

Our office handles uncontested evictions from start to finish for landlords for a simple and reasonable flat fee. Only in the event that a tenant files a counterclaim, moves to dismiss the eviction, files for discovery, or the parties enter into substantive negotiations over an agreement for judgment, do hourly fees apply.

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Answered on 9/11/13, 6:02 pm
John Skinner, III Associated Attorneys of New England

I represent consumers and tenants as a dedicated consumer advocate. See

You should really, really, try to work with these tenants in a reasonable and fair manner. In such circumstances, you are exposed to major liability for the unfair or deceptive act or practice of renting an illegal apartment.

Representing the tenants, one could argue for a return of all the rent paid, times 3, plus costs, and attorneys fees and I would probably be able to represent such tenants at no cost to them- because I would be fairly confident that we could prevail in obtaining at least some money back for them [not all of it], plus costs, and attorneys fees.

I recommend you work it out nicely with these folks and/or do whatever needs to be done to make that apartment legal ASAP.

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Answered on 9/12/13, 5:23 am

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