Massachusetts Tenant Screening
Last Updated: January 29, 2015
Massachusetts has played a significant historical, cultural, and commercial role in American history. Plymouth was the site of the colony founded in 1620 by the Pilgrims, passengers of the Mayflower. Harvard University, founded in 1636, is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States.
How to Screen a Tenant in Massachusetts
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Step 1: Know Your Rights & Responsibilities
Landlords and property managers are subject to the Fair Credit Reporting Act [PDF] (FCRA) during the tenant screening process. Additionally, Massachusetts has laws that affect the tenant screening process. You can find the current Massachusetts Codes on the Massachusetts State Legislature website. If you are finding the formalities of the state code daunting, you might want to check out these friendlier sites:
- Overview of Landlord-Tenant Laws in Massachusetts
- Massachusetts Consumer Guide To Landlord Rights And Responsibilities
Recent Law Changes
Under the Massachusetts Domestic Violence Act recently signed into law, victims of sexual assault and stalking have the right to break their leases without significant financial penalty, have the landlord change their locks, and other protections. The new law applies to anyone in the renter’s household.
Step 2: Required Forms & Disclosures
Tip: before you rent for the first time, consider hiring a lawyer to review all of the documents you will use during the application and rental process to ensure that you are protected to the fullest extent of the law.
- Rental Application [PDF] (this must be completed in full by the applicant prior to screening)
- Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act [PDF]
- Consumer Report Disclosure [PDF]
If you are ACCEPTING an applicant:
- Move-In Checklist [PDF]
- Lease Agreement (written), containing or attaching the following information:
- Owner/Agent Identity – this should include name and address, and if the owner/agent is out-of-state it must include contact information for a resident of the COUNTY in which the rental is located that can act as an agent for the purposes of serving notices and process.
- Security Deposit – this must include the amount of the deposit and the conditions under which some or all of the deposit may be withheld. It must also include the name and banking institution holding the deposit.
- Non-refundable Fees – explicitly describe any non-refundable fees, and state clearly that they are non-refundable.
- Fire Protection & Safety Information: You must disclose the available fire protection and safety information specific to the unit you are renting, including smoking policy, evacuation plans, and who to notify in case of emergency.
- Move-In Checklist: Massachusetts landlords must provide tenants with a move-in checklist if the landlord collects a security deposit. (186 Mass. Gen. Laws 15B(2)(c))
- Insurance: In Massachusetts, upon tenant’s request and within 15 days, landlords must furnish the name of the company insuring the property against loss or damage by fire and the amount of insurance provided by each such company and the name of any person who would receive payment for a loss covered by such insurance. (186 Mass. Gen. Laws 21)
- Security Deposit: In Massachusetts, at the time of receiving a security deposit, the landlord must furnish a receipt indicating the amount of the deposit, the name of the person receiving it, and, if received by a property manager, the name of the lessor for whom the security deposit is received, the date on which it is received, and a description of the premises leased or rented. The receipt must be signed by the person receiving the security deposit. Within 30 days of receiving security deposit, landlord must disclose the name and location of the bank in which the security deposit has been deposited, and the amount and account number of the deposit. (Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 186, 15B)
If you are DECLINING an applicant:
- Adverse Action Notice [PDF]
Step 3: Order a Tenant Screening Report
What You’ll Need
- A completed rental application signed by the applicant.
- Some details about your applicant:
- Email address
- Date of birth
- Social Security number
- Previous address
- Bank account number (optional)
- Bank routing number (optional)
What Will Be Covered
- Package Options
- Background Report Coverage for Massachusetts:
- Criminal, OFAC/Patriot Act & Sex Offender Records – A nationwide search is always performed. These jurisdictions specifically are available in Massachusetts: MA Sex Offender Registry.
- Eviction Records – records are available from the following counties: Barnstable, Berkshire, Bristol, Dukes, Essex, Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire, Middlesex, Nantucket, Norfolk, Plymouth, Suffolk, Worcester.
- Bankruptcies, Liens & Judgments – records are available from the following counties: Barnstable, Berkshire, Bristol, Dukes, Essex, Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire, Middlesex, Nantucket, Norfolk, Plymouth, Suffolk, Worcester, Allegany, Anne Arundel, Baltimore City, Baltimore, Calvert, Caroline, Carroll, Cecil, Charles, Dorchester, Frederick, Garrett, Harford, Howard, Kent, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Queen Anne’s, Somerset, St. Mary’s, Talbot, Washington, Wicomico, Worcester.
- Social Security Number validation, Death Index, credit checks, previous addresses, alias names, and the Rent Check Advisor include all information available regardless of location.
Resources for Massachusetts Landlords
- Massachusetts State Bar Association Lawyer Referral
- Massachusetts Courts Information
- Law Enforcement Agencies in Massachusetts (Wikipedia)