Skip to main content

Landlord may not retaliate against tenantsIt is illegal for a landlord to retaliate against a tenant in Massachusetts

The relationship between tenants and landlords are not always as peaceful, cordial, or even as professional as would be preferred. Situations can occur where both parties do not see eye-to-eye and their affiliation goes awry. In result, tenants can be very hesitant to take action against their landlords because they are unaware of whether or not they are in bounds, legally, to do so. Being educated on renting residential property is vital when it comes to the legal rights of a renter. In the state of Massachusetts, tenants have clearly illustrated rights to utilize to their benefit when it comes to landlord retaliation.

If a landlord retaliates against a tenant he may be liable for no less than one month’s and no more than three month’s rent plus attorney fees and cost. 

If you think you have been the victim of retaliation please get in contact today

What is retaliation?

  1. Landlord tried to evict a tenant after she filed a complaint or took other legal action at a Massachusetts court for damages or to force the landlord to take some action (such as the return of an illegal deposit) or enforce the tenant’s rights;
  2.  Landlord tries to evict a tenant after she reports the landlord and asked inspectional services to inspect the apartment for violations of the sanitary code;
  3.  Landlord tries to evict a tenant after she withholds rent because of conditions that violate the law; or
  4.  joined a tenant organization.

Additionally, the law creates a presumption that any eviction commenced within six months of the tenant engaging in some protected activity (such as the examples above) is retaliatory.


For any landlord conduct to be consider retaliatory the act must happened within six months of a tenant acting on and utilizing her rights. On the other hand, in the case of Copley Mgmt. & Dev. Corp. v. Ramos, Boston Housing Court Summary Process No. 48202 (June 14, 1989) (King, J.), it is exemplified that if a tenant initially, “makes a complaint about substandard conditions after service of a notice to quit for nonpayment, the tenant may not be entitled to a retaliation or counterclaim,” in a defense to eviction.


While it may be a daunting process, there are legal presumptions that tenants can utilize to guide them in the process. In accordance with Massachusetts law, such points touch on eviction, sanitary code violations, and nonpayment of rent. When it comes to eviction, landlords legally cannot, “attempt to regain possession of residential premises without judicial process.” Sanitary code violations are a leading reason why tenants exercise their rights and make claims against their landlords. For this reason, it is important to know that, “the same type of verified complaint that is used for serious sanitary code violations can be used to get an emergency TRO if a tenant is the victim of an illegal lockout.” As previously discussed, in regards to back payment, “the statutory presumption does not apply to notices of termination served on the basis of nonpayment of rent.”

If tenants follow their rights and exercise them correctly, they have a fighting chance to win their case. When taking action against a landlord for unlawful practices and tenants are awarded damages, landlords, “shall be liable for damages which shall not be less than one month’s rent or more than three month’s rent, or the actual damages sustained by the tenant, whichever is greater, and the costs of the suit, including a reasonable attorney’s fee.”

Arthur Hardy-Doubleday

Author Arthur Hardy-Doubleday

Arthur Hardy-Doubleday practices law in Cambridge and Martha's Vineyard Massachusetts. He works in the areas of Real Estate, Personal Injury, and Consumer Protection Law. When not practicing law, Arthur enjoys sailing, hanging out with friends on the beach, and waking his dog "Ridiculous."

More posts by Arthur Hardy-Doubleday
Call Now Button