Your Basic Right to a Livable Premises

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According to Massachusetts' Attorney General's Office: "In Massachusetts, the State Sanitary Code governs what it means to provide a habitable place in which to live. In general, 'habitable' means a place that is comfortable and clean enough for a person to live safely. You are entitled to a safe and habitable living environment throughout your entire tenancy.

If a landlord does not respond to a tenant's complaints about a sanitary code violation, the tenant may request that a code enforcement officer or the local board of health inspect the apartment. An inspector can then come to the apartment, review the conditions, and order the landlord to fix the problem if deemed necessary.

In the event that the landlord still fails to fix the problem, then a tenant may move out, even if there is a lease or rental agreement in place. A tenant may also be able to pay a lower rental rate for what the unit, as it is constituted, is actually worth. Before taking action, a tenant seeking this option should contact a private lawyer or legal services for more information."

The landlord's responsibility to provide habitable housing generally includes:

  • Maintaining basic structural elements of the building, including the floor, stairs, walls, roofs, safe and intact
  • Keeping all common areas, such as hallways and stairways, in a safe and clean condition
  • Keeping electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems and elevators operating safely
  • Supplying cold and hot water and heat in reasonable amounts at reasonable times
  • Providing trash receptacles and arranging for their removal
  • Exterminating infestations of rodents and other vermin
For details regarding timeliness of such repairs, please view the Massachusetts Housing Code checklist.

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