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What if I owe rent?

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute with assistance from legal services offices in Massachusetts
Created May 2017

What if I owe rent?

If you owe rent, prepare to negotiate and record in your agreement:

  • How much rent you owe:
    In the agreement, write the correct amount of rent you owe and the exact months owed. If you pay rent for the month you are working out an agreement, include that month in the agreement and the exact amount of rent you are paying.
  • Rent reduction and repairs:
    If the apartment needs repairs, negotiate:
  • To lower your rent because you lived with bad conditions,
  • The repairs the landlord will make, and
  • A deadline for the landlord to make the repairs.
  • Does your landlord owe you money?
    Your landlord may owe you money, for example, for your utilities, security deposit or entering your apartment without permission. For some legal claims they may owe you at least 3 months’ rent.
  • Reasonable payment plan:
    Tell the landlord you want to find a way to pay the rent you owe over time. If you agree to a payment plan for back rent, make sure it is realistic.Do not agree to make payments you are not sure you can pay. If you do not make a payment and you break the agreement, your landlord can go back to court and get an order to evict you.

Getting help to pay back rent :
Some agencies have funds to help tenants pay back rent so they will not become homeless. Ask volunteer lawyers or court staff if they have a list of local agencies. Ask about the RAFT program if you have children and you are at risk of becoming homeless. RAFT are funds that you can use to pay back rent or move to a new place.


Find Legal Aid

You may be able to get free legal help from your local legal aid program. Or email a question about your own legal problem to a lawyer.

Get Negotiating a Settlement (Booklet 10)

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