Q. Does Massachusetts Law allow a landlord to collect six months’ or one year’s worth of rent in advance of the tenancy? What if the tenant volunteers to pay this rent in advance?
A. The relevant statute on this issue is Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 186, Section 15B, which states, in part: “(b) At or prior to the commencement of any tenancy, no lessor may require a tenant or prospective tenant to pay any amount in excess of the following: (i) rent for the first full month of occupancy; and, (ii) rent for the last full month of occupancy calculated at the same rate as the first month; and, (iii) a security deposit equal to the first month’s rent provided that such security deposit is deposited as required by subsection (3) and that the tenant is given the statement of condition as required by subsection (2); and, (iv) the purchase and installation cost for a key and lock. Reading this statute, it is clear that a landlord cannot require the tenant to pay any amount beyond the four items listed. Often a landlord might argue that it is the tenant who is volunteering to pay multiple months’ rent in advance, and therefore it is not a requirement of the landlord. Even though the tenant is volunteering to pay this rent in advance, the landlord must consider whether or not he or she would accept the tenant if the tenant had not made such an offer. Therefore, to avoid violating the law, caution should be used and landlords should consult with their legal counsel before accepting any amount from the tenant beyond those items listed in the statute.