What to do if the apartment that my girlfriend and I rent is not a legal apartment?

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What to do if the apartment that my girlfriend and I rent is not a legal apartment?

It has both zoning and fire code violations and was never legally viable since before we signed the lease. What are we entitled to?

Asked on October 30, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

B.H.F., Member, Texas State Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Because you are in Massachusetts, you actually have multiple avenues of relief.  Your relief is based on the statutory and common law theory that if you pay your rent in full you are entitled to a warranty of habitability-- i.e. a safe place to live. 

Your first option is to contact the local code enforcement officer through the board of health in your jurisdiction.  They can come to your apartment, inspect for code violations, and force the landlord to make the necessary repairs. 

The attorney general for you state also offers a mediation program to help resolve landlord tenant disputes.  This can be a cheaper alternative to filing a lawsuit, and less riskier than rent withholding.

Your third option is to send your landlord notice of the issues with the apartment, demand that they be repaired, and then withhold the payment of rent and fix the issues yourself.  Massachusetts also authorizes a tenant to withhold rent for a unit that is not habitable.

If you have a lease agreement, it may have additional remedies-- but other than breaking the lease, these options above are going to be them main remedies availble to deal with a difficult landlord.


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