Types of tenancies

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Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

As a renter in Massachusetts, some of your rights and responsibilities depend on:

  • The kind of tenancy you have, and
  • The kind of housing you rent. 

You also have certain rights no matter what type of tenancy you have. 

Read this article to learn more about the different types of tenancies and your rights.

Tenant with Lease

If you have a written agreement to rent for a specific time period at a specific amount of rent, you are a tenant with a lease. Usually leases last 1 year. Your rent cannot be raised during this time. Make sure you know if you have to renew your lease or if it renews automatically from year-to-year. A landlord cannot evict you during your lease term, unless you have violated your lease.  

Tenant at Will

If your agreement with your landlord is a month-to-month tenancy, you are a tenant at will. Your agreement can be written or spoken. Most tenants are tenants at will. 

Tenant at Sufferance

Your tenancy ends when your lease ends or your landlord sends you a Notice to Quit. If your tenancy ended but you are still in your apartment, you are a tenant at sufferance.

The biggest difference between a tenant at sufferance and other tenants is that a landlord does not need to give you a Notice to Quit if they want to evict you. But if the landlord wants to evict you, they must go to court, and you must receive a Summons and Complaint. They can only move you out with a court’s permission. See Eviction Basics. 

Tenant in Public or Subsidized Housing

If you are a tenant in public or subsidized housing, you have special protections against rent increases and eviction. There are many different government housing programs. To learn more, see What is the difference between public and subsidized housing?

Tenant in a Mobile Home

If you live in mobile home or a manufactured home, you have special protections. For more see Legal Tactics, Chapter 16: Mobile Homes.

Tenant in Transitional Housing

If you are in a program that provides transitional housing and services while you look for permanent housing, you are a tenant in transitional housing. Some tenants in transitional housing may have protections against evictions. But others, for example, who are in Emergency Assistance shelters, are not entitled to defend an eviction in court.

Tenant in a Rooming House

If you rent a single room that is not an apartment and at least 4 other people who are not related to the landlord rent rooms there, you are a tenant in a rooming house. Your rights depend on how long you live there. For more, see Legal Tactics, Chapter 15: Rooming Houses.

Other rights guaranteed

As a renter in Massachusetts, you have certain rights no matter what type of tenancy you have. These include the right to:

This is an overview article. For more information, see Legal Tactics, Chapter 4: Tenancies.


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