Tenant Rights and Responsibilities

The Office for Student Affairs can provide practical and experiential advice for students navigating tenant rights and responsibilities. If you have questions, we encourage you to contact our office. If we are unable to assist you, we may be able to connect you with information and local resources that can assist.

The information below was adapted from Know Your Rights When You Rent in Boston provided by the City of Boston. Please refer to the link above for additional information.


A lease is a legally binding contract. Be sure to read and understand your lease carefully before signing, and keep a copy for your records. Your lease will include important information about your rights and responsibilities as a tenant.

A standard lease should include the following:

  • Names of all of the tenants
  • Landlord name and contact information
  • Apartment address
  • Lease term
  • Monthly rent, including when and how it is due
  • Who is responsible for utilities
  • Who to contact for maintenance or emergencies
  • Conditions for subletting
  • Any additional information that was discussed. Did you discuss repairs that were going to be completed? Make sure that’s included. Did you agree that your pet could live there too? Be sure it says so in your lease. Don’t be afraid to ask to add, remove, or change any of the language in your lease.
  • If the property was built before 1978, the landlord should also provide a copy of the Massachusetts Lead Law Notification and Tenant Certification Form.

You may be able to discuss changing lease terms with your landlord (e.g. lease end date, breaking a lease, subletting), but your landlord is under no obligation to make changes.

Once you’ve reviewed and signed your lease, be sure to get a countersigned copy of your lease from your landlord or property manager. Landlords are required to provide a copy of the lease free of charge.

Deposits and Fees

By law, property owners can charge the following fees:

  • the first month’s rent
  • the last month’s rent
  • a security deposit equal to one month’s rent
  • a fee to buy and install new locks

A realtor can a broker’s fee, typically equivalent to one month’s rent.

Apartment Condition

Before signing a lease, view the condition of the apartment. Provide written notice of any conditions or damages in writing to the property owner.

Property owners are required to maintain an apartment to meet local and state sanitary and building codes, and Massachusetts Lead Law. Minimum requirements include:

  • functioning carbon monoxide and smoke detectors
  • heat, water, adequate exits, and toilets
  • being free of defects that could harm renters
  • being free of pest infestations
  • being free of garbage and other waste

For more information on housing code and enforcement, visit the City of Boston Inspectional Services.

Renters Insurance

Make sure you protect your belongings from loss or damage. Whether it’s fire, theft, plumbing, or any other type of covered loss, a basic renters insurance policy protects against the monetary loss of the contents of an apartment or the tenant’s personal property. Most major insurance carriers offer renters insurance, and it is a relatively low-cost way to insure the value of your personal property.

Contacts and Resources

Questions about your rights and responsibilities as a tenant? Use the following resources:

Information provided by OSA should not be construed as legal advisement. OSA is not responsible for incorrect or out of date information. Updated 10/26/17