Common Question on Landlord/Tenant Issues answered by the staff of the MAR Legal Hotline.
Q. I have heard from a prospective tenant that there is a requirement under Massachusetts law that a landlord provide an executed copy of a lease within 30 days in order to form a valid tenancy. Is this true? If a tenant does not receive a copy, what effect would it have on the tenancy?
A. Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 186, Section 15D states, in part that “a lessor who has agreed orally to execute a lease and obtains the signature of the lessee shall, within thirty days thereafter, deliver a copy of said lease to the lessee, duly signed and executed by said lessor.” This language places the burden on the landlord, or his or her agent, to ensure that the tenant has received a copy of the lease in those circumstances where the landlord has verbally agreed to the tenancy. The statute goes on to include a provision that prohibits any waiver of this requirement within the lease and also makes it possible for a landlord to be fined up to $300 for failure to comply. According to case law in Massachusetts, noncompliance with this law does not in and of itself render an otherwise valid lease unenforceable.