Rental Applications, credit checks, background checks, and leases in Massachusetts.

9 Replies

Hi All!

I am a newer landlord that recently bought a multifamily house in Malden, MA. 

When I bought the house the unit were already occupied. But now one of my tenants is moving out. 

Does anyone have some recommendations for what they use for rental applications, contracts, credit and background checks? 

Also what do you all recommend for the application process in terms of what things should I ask perspective tenants, and how should I verify to makes sure references are legitimate? What else should I be up to speed on before I select the right tenant? 



@Corey Besner  

First check this link and that should give you a starting point for applications etc...

For leases, I would Google what your local realtors use and "borrow" some of their info.  Also, try connecting with local landlords and see what they have added to their leases.   Also, check for local landlord tenant laws to ensure your not violating anything. 

Credit and background check companies are all over the Internet.  I use the one below after a local landlord recommended it to me.

How to rent your property

How to select tenants

Tenant red flags

Educate yourself well on these topics or you may end up with a nightmare tenant. 

I agree just use the standard MA NAR stuff.

If you have other things you want in the lease add some addenda at the end.  Best to look at having an attorney make sure they are done right but you can roll the dice as long as you understand the law well enough you don't think you will do anything dumb.

Corey, the landlord forum here on BP should be your new best friend.  Also familiarize yourself with the MA specific laws on - there is a specific section for Massachusetts landlords.

I personally am not at the "landlording" stage yet. But these info are very nice to have. Thanks guys!

@Hieu Luu , start reading the back post in the Landlord forums, and perhaps bookmark some of your favorites.  There is a ton of information in there, and no need to reinvent the wheel while you are learning.

Most people use the Greater Boston Real Estate Board's forms for leases, applications, etc.

I'd recommend the book "Landlord's Legal Guide in Massachusetts", by attorney Joseph DiBlasi.  It has a lot of important information, as well as standard lease forms.  If you don't want to buy it, you should be able to get it from the library.

1. Read the The Ultimate Guide to Tenant Screening (with Infographic) which is part of a link already provided

- if you follow the above mentioned Guide you'll be so far ahead of the game you'll think your in last place! 

2. Read the Mass laws or at overview them; rinse and repeat, do not chew or swallow; it will induce vomiting....; Beer in hand; I mean; bear in mind this may sway you away from future investments in Massachusetts. Kidding... kinda :) 

- A good place to start:

3. I recommend joining a local REIA or local Land Lord Group; like minded people sharing information typically from your local area so you know it the good stuff... 

- There are many great groups in our area...

3. Specific areas to be familiar with... 

1. Eviction process (just sign over the deed to your house it will make life easier for you) :)

2. Fee's you can request or charge 

3. Federal & State Protected Classes 

4. Pet laws, there was a recent court case that changed or altered the way you can charge for pets; sorry I can't locate the article but I believe its here (BP) somewhere... 

4. Tenant Screening... 

I use SmartMoves, (there are many others; and many posts on BP around this subject)  I request a copy of their drives license, pay stubs, W2 and a bunch more; and a completed Application; I tell them if doesn't correctly correspond to the results in SmartMoves.... Houston has a problem.... I don't make all the paperwork "mandatory" but some of it is; I tell them, the more information they provide the more informed decision I can make... in this case less is not more.... 

I strongly suggest you set up online screening / background checks with a site that allows the tenant to pay... if you don't and ask for the cost associated with doing this background check make sure it is a separate check; (do not include it with first, last, security deposit checks) actually I would only accept cash; and write a receipt specially stating its for the cost of the background check and not a fee associated with the application.... (note; some may view this as asking for a "fee" that is not within the Mass Laws) I would check with your lawyer; and that leaves me with # 5

5. Find a locally grown; pastured raised; organically certified; Lawyer... seriously find the best in the field; in your areas and become his or her office wife, husband.... you're flowers better hit the desk before her husbands! Like the saying goes; its better to know a top notch lawyer and not need'em; then need'em and not know'em... horrible paraphrase but you get the picture.... 

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