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Know the Laws: Massachusetts

UPDATED November 28, 2016

A victim of domestic violence, rape, sexual assault or stalking can terminate his/her tenancy or get the landlord to change the locks to his/her door.  Below, we have some basic information about this law.  You can also read the laws in their entirety (sections 23 through 29) on our MA Statutes page, under the section called "Chapter 186. Estates for Years and at Will."

back to topWho is protected by this housing law? What protections does it offer?

A tenant or co-tenant may terminate his/her rental agreement (lease) or tenancy by giving written notice to the owner that:

  1. a member of the household is a victim of domestic violence, rape, sexual assault or stalking (such notification must be made within 3 months of the most recent act of domestic violence, rape, sexual assault or stalking) or
  2. a member of a tenant's household is reasonably in fear of imminent serious physical harm from domestic violence, rape, sexual assault or stalking.
The owner/landlord has the right to request proof that the person is a victim of domestic violence, rape, sexual assault or stalking and can even ask for the name of the abuser/perpetrator.*

To read more information about how long a person has to leave the apartment/dwelling unit, the return of a person's security deposit, and what proof is sufficient to prove the violence to the landlord/owner, go to our MA Statutes page to read Chapter 186, section 24.

The law also says that if you request it, the landlord/owner must change the locks of the individual dwelling unit in which the tenant, co-tenant or household member lives if the s/he reasonably believes that s/he is under an imminent threat of domestic violence, rape, sexual assault or stalking.  If the abuser/perpetrator is also a tenant, co-tenant or household member, you have to provide a copy of a protective order or a record from a federal, state or local court or law enforcement, indicating that the abuser poses an imminent threat of domestic violence, rape, sexual assault or stalking.  If the owner/landlord doesn't change the locks within 2 business days of the request, you can get them changed yourself. Note: The owner can charge you a reasonable fee to change the locks.**

To read more information about changing your locks, go to our MA Statutes page to read Chapter 186, section 26.

* M.G.L.A 186 § 24
** M.G.L.A 186 § 26

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