Recent News and Alerts

  • Dec 01, 1994

    Warranty of Habitability: A Potential Nightmare

    Article by Kenneth Krems for New England Assisted Housing Management Association publication

    Picture this scenario: You think you have a simple eviction case for non-payment of rent. After all, the tenant does owe three months rent for a total of $1800.00. You bring your case to court but there is a hitch -- the tenant raises a rent withholding defense and a breach of warranty counterclaim. The result of this "simple" case could be that the tenant remains in the possession of the apartment, you owe the tenant money, and you have to make repairs. Your case has turned into a nightmare.

    Tenants do sometimes raise these type of defenses and counterclaims in eviction cases. Your success as a manager in these cases depends upon your understanding of the law, as well as what actions you took or did not take before the case ever made it into a courtroom.

    Many states, including Massachusetts, recognize a warranty of habitability. This means that a landlord must keep the apartment free of significant defects, or in the case of Massachusetts, free from violations of the State Sanitary Code. Under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 239, section 8A, a tenant can have a valid rent withholding defense if: 1) there are significant defects in the apartment; 2) the defects were not caused by the tenant or anyone under the tenant's control; and 3) the landlord or the landlord's employees knew of the defects prior to the time the tenant fell behind in the payment of rent. The landlord's knowledge can be as a result of receiving written notice of the defects from the tenant, being told about the defects, receiving notice from the Board of Health, or any other type of notice.
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  • Sep 01, 1994

    Non-Tenants and Illegal Activity: Are You Doing Enough?

    Article by Kenneth Krems for New England Assisted Housing Management Association publication

    Most landlords, once they have police reports or other sufficient evidence, act quickly to rid their communities of residents who are engaging in illegal activity in their apartments or in the common areas. But what about non-residents who are hanging out in the common hallways, courtyards or parking lots of a property and selling drugs, carrying guns, or just harassing residents? These individuals may be total strangers, but ofter are the adult children of residents who have gotten older and moved out. What obligations does a landlord have to rid its property of these non-residents and what steps can a landlord take?

    In a recent case involving the New Bedford Housing Authority, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court shed some light on a landlord's obligations in such instances. Several residents had sued the Housing Authority, claiming that, while there had been some attempts to evict residents who were engaging in illegal activity, not much had been done about non-residents who were coming on the property and dealing drugs. A lower court had dismissed the residents' case prior to trial. The Supreme Judicial Court stated that under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 186, section 14, the "quiet enjoyment" statute, residents have a right to be protected against a serious interference with their tenancy and the character and value of the leased premises. If a landlord takes little or no action to remove individuals who are engaging in illegal activities in the common areas, and the result is that the residents are unable to use those areas as the landlord had originally promised, then the landlord is probably breaching the covenant of quiet enjoyment.
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  • Jul 01, 1993

    Getting Rid of Drug Dealers

    Article by Kenneth Krems for New England Assisted Housing Management Association

    Recently landlords have had to deal more often with tenants who use drugs in, and sell drugs out of, their apartments. Managers want to evict these tenants as quickly and inexpensively as possible, and do not want to commence a court action unless there is a strong likelihood that they will be successful. There are several types of actions which landlords can institute, and various evidentiary tips which can be utilized to improve the chances of winning.

    Most often landlords will serve the tenant with a thirty-day notice to quit for cause or nuisance. The notice is based upon language in subsidized leases which prohibits the tenant from engaging in or permitting others to engage in unlawful activities in the unit or in common areas, including the possession, use or sale of illegal drugs. After the thirty days expire, the landlord commences an eviction action in court. The problem with following this procedure is that it takes a minimum of two to four months from start to finish.
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