Welcome to Ask the Editor....

The purpose of this page is to try and help you through the maze of finding an apartment in Boston.

First, I would like to thank you for visiting our Online Magazine.

You must be asking yourself "who is the editor?"

Your Editor/Publisher/Data Input/Graphic Artist/Programmer..... is:

Eric Boyer. I have been a Licensed Commonwealth Of Massachusetts Real Estate Broker since 1979 and have provided online services on the internet at FIDONET 1:101/425 since 1980. I worked two years as a Complaint Mediator for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Attorney General's Office. I received my MBA from Babson College('87) and my B.S. from Northeastern University ('83).

This column will basically hold the most frequently asked and the most bizarre questions from our site!

As the great broadcast journalist Linda Ellerbee used to say on the show Overnight..... "And so it goes....."


My landlord deducted the city water bill from my security deposit, can he do this? I asked for it back and he will not return it.

In, Massachusetts, you are not allowed to charge the tenant for the cost of the water unless the water is seperately metered and water saving devices are installed. The tenant can also be charged for the heating of the water (via a gas/electric bill) and only if it is on a separately metered circuit from any other tenant or common area and is stipulated in the lease. This deduction by your landlord should not have taken place unless the charge was listed in your lease, and if he continues to refuse to return it, you may have to take him to small claims court. They may award you up to 3 times damages for his refusal to do so.


Can a landlord or real estate agent show my apartment without advance notice?

Massachusetts law provides 6 reasons for a landlord or his agents to enter a leased apartment. They are:
  • To show it to a prospective renter or purchaser, mortgage company, insurance company, etc.
  • To inspect the apartment
  • To make repairs
  • In accordance with a court order
  • If the premises appear to have been abandoned
  • To inspect the premises within the last 30 days of the tenancy or to determine the amount of damage to be deducted from the security deposit after notice to terminate has been given.

     

    Common courtesy would dictate advanced notice, however unless it is specifically stated in your lease, advance notice is not required. This means that they can enter without notice and even if it is inconvenient for the reasons stated above.

  • We just got an apartment for September 1st but we were told we cannot occupy it until the 10th because so it can be cleaned and painted. Can we be charged a full month's rent?

    The rent should be pro-rated. The landlord may take the full month in advance but should adjust the following month's rent accordingly. This tends to make it easier as it may take less time, or a bit more. In this manner, only one adjustment has to be made rather than guessing September's rent and readjusting in October for and miscalculations.


    I am co-signing a lease for my child and have been asked to provide photocopies of my paycheck and my photo license. I have already provided verification of employment and salary with notorized documents.

    Copies of pay stubs is not uncommon. This tends to be more proof than a statement from an unknown person. As for the driver's license, I am sure it is to prove that you are who you say that you are. The information on the license is already known by your child's future landlord as a credit check was probably run.


    I'm subletting an apartment this summer and want to draw up a contract to guarantee that the apartment will be available for the agreed upon dates. Any suggestions or templates for the format of this document? Thanks for your help.

    The best thing to do is to is to draw up a contract with the current tenant stating that for $X amount per month From DD/MM/YY until DD/MM/YY you are subletting #Y Apartment at XYZ Street, Anytown, USA from the tenant. It should also state that you agree to abide by the lease signed and dated between the landlord and the tenant you're renting from and have a copy attached. You should also get the landlord's permission in writing as the landlord could theoretically not agree to subletting and move to evict you. Don't forget to date the contract. Both parties should have a signed copy. That's about all you can really do as it does not bind the landlord, just the tenant.


    Do you have any information about the legal ramifications of breaking your lease? What are the tenant's rights if they are unhappy with the location of their rental and want to move out early?

    Bad news....

    Convenience of the location of the apartments is not grounds for breaking your lease...

    Health code violations that aren't repaired after proper notice, or other violations of your rights under the lease to constitute a breech of contract would be another story.

    If you break your lease, you are responsible for the rent until it is re-rented or until your lease would expire (whichever comes first) If it is rented out for less for the period remaining on your lease, you are responsible for the difference. You can also be responsible for the advertising costs, brokers' fees the landlord may pay to re-rent it, legal fees and court costs of chasing you, your roommates or any co-signor. Remember your lease is jointly and severally; which means the landlord can go after any one or all parties (tenants & co-signors) for the full amount.

    If the landlord says: "OK you can move out." Get it in writing.. He can go after you if there is no written proof.


    Looking through your classified listings, some indicate fees while others do not. If I call about a specific listing and no fee is indicated, will I still be charged a fee? That is, is it safe to assume that a fee will be charged for all listings on your web site?

    In Massachusetts, it is safe to assume that there is a full month's fee to rent an apartment, unless it is from the owner (They're prohibited from charging rental fees for their own property by law.) When looking for an apartment, expect to budget 4 month's rent if looking through an agency, 3 month's from a landlord. A landlord can charge:
  • 1st month's rent
  • Last' month's rent
  • Security deposit (up to 1 month's rent)
  • Maybe a key/lock deposit
  • There is no law governing the amount of a rental fee. Through tradition, it is normally 1 month's rent. Theoretically, an agency could charge you a flat fee of $1,000,000 to find a $600 per month apartment and not violate any law. I doubt the agency would get many clients though. Agencies now provide prospective tenants with fee disclosure forms, explaining what and how much they charge.

    You can read more about the charges in our on-line Tenants' Handbook.


    I am planning on moving to the Boston. In planning my apartment-hunting trip, I was wondering if apartments are shown on the weekends. Or, would it be safer to assume most do not and make a weekday trip?

    Apartment Hunting on the weekend can be accomplished. There may be buildings that can't be entered because the management companies where the keys are kept aren't available, or worse yet, it may have been rented on a Friday and you won't know until Monday whether it was available. You're probably better off leaving Thursday night, start early Friday, and leave Saturday night.
    You may also want to fill out the form located at:
    http://www.bostonapartments.com/findapt.htm


    I desperately need a 1-2 bedroom sublet for the summer. Please tell me where I can find out about this type of information.

    Sublets usually are found within a couple of weeks before the actual move-in date. Sublets mean that a tenant is breaking his/her lease. This mostly comes from 1 of 2 reasons:
    1. The apartment has problems.
    2. The tenants cannot stay.
    Most landlords do not want a turnover (3 tenants in 3 months) (original, you, & the next) The landlords look for primarily year long leases or extended to the next August 31st. When it gets close to a date where it becomes vacant, they tend to be more flexible about sublets (especially if they feel that the previous tenants are going to have to be chased for lost rent not collected under the remaining lease term.) Sublets must be upon the owner's approval (as it is stated so in almost every lease)

    Real Estate Agencies don't tend to advertise them and they take as much time and effort to complete as a 1 year rental. Most will put in the effort if they are told up front you're willing to pay the same realty fee as for a 1 year lease. College bulletin boards, Laundromats, Convenience stores are a great way to find them.

    If it's just for the summer, you may also want to try a roommate situation. It's a great way not to have to change all the utilities and the like for a short period of time. In some situations, you may find you don't even need to bring furniture!


    Hi, I'm hoping you can help me with this question. Is $41k enough to rent a $1200-$1400/month apartment? It seems like it would be ok, but I've been told an applicant with that salary for that price apartment will be turned down. What's your experience with this?

    Most landlords/agents look for housing costs to not exceed 25-33% of the gross pay (excluding people with large fixed expenses). So let's do some math:

    $1,200*12=$14,400
    $14,400/$41,000=35% a bit higher then the highest limit as a rule of thumb. If you were purchasing, the bank would look at a mortgage payment the same way. I know many people that put 50% of their gross to the rent and make it, but one bad ding (like unexpected bills) can make it impossible to pay the landlord.

    Smaller landlords may not be as stringent with the percentages as compared to a larger landlord with rules that tend to carry across the board as any variation could result in a discrimination case.

    I have a rent affordability calculator available at: http://www.bostonapartments.com/rentcalculator.htm


    I am hoping you can help me with a question. I rent the second story of a townhouse from my landlord who runs a dentist office on the first floor.

    Our front door is glass with red trim. The lock he has for the door requires a key to lock the door both on the inside and outside. I consider this a safetly hazard, because recently my boyfriend accidently took my keys, locked the door behind him, thereby locking me inside. If there had been a fire, I would not have been able to get out because there is no fire escape and some of the windows do not open. I have mentioned my concern to my landlord, but it's been months now, and he hasn't addressed this and other maintenance issues.

    Where can I go to find out what landlord are legally required to provide for their tenants in terms of safety and maintenance?

    The Building Codes requires that all inside locks can be unlocked with a thumb turn and not a key. Your windows should also open and have locks on them as well. It is a safety issue and should be addressed by the landlord. Your building department will surely be interested in that situation.

    You should put your request in writing to the landlord (certified mail, return receipt) and notify him in this letter that he has 30 days to rectify the situation or you will seek legal remedies under Statute 93A with regard to landlord-tenants.

    The Attorney General's Office has a department for landlord-tenant relations. Their # is 617-727-8400.

    (Remember, I am not a lawyer - just a Broker!)


    Do most places check credit when you are trying to rent from them? What does someone do who has bad credit, but excellent references from present landlord?

    Most large landlords check credit as part of their regular proceedure. It is a good idea for you to be up-front and honest with your real estate agent on this point. Not all landlords they represent require credit checks. A good agent may be able to explain away your blemish on the credit report as well. For example the agent can highlight the great landlord references and minimize your past credit problems.

    You should also contact the credit agencies and get a copy of your credit report. You can submit a small explanantion of why the blemish occurred. This will become part of your report and will help diminish the problem when the landlord or agent first sees your application.

    Another idea is to establish lots of new credit. The problem then becomes only a small portion of the total credit history thereby lowering the risk factor rating.


    Do you collect information on your visitors and if so what?

    BostonApartments.com does not collect information on your visit beyond what shows up in general statistics like number of visitors, hits, etc.

    For more information see our terms of service agreement.

     

    Here's a couple of ways to check your credit including a free credit score! TransUnion Surprise 125x125 Completely Free Credit Score

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