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April 23, 2012 5:40 PM   Subscribe

MA Tenant Law - what if a tenant improperly stores their possessions (bed frame, mattress, box spring) on the other side of a duplex?

With reasonable notice (36 hours, say), can a landlord of a two-unit dwelling remove and dispose of the tenant's rubbish at the expense of the tenant? Yes, you are not my lawyer. CMR is vague - the landlord has the responsibility to remove rubbish and may remove harborage for pests - can the landlord pass the buck onto the tenant since it is his material?
posted by plinth to Law & Government (5 answers total)
You also want to check up on the MGLs, eg here. I'm a landlord and not a lawyer. My read of the linked section is that your (monetary) recovery options are limited to deducting from security deposit, in extremely limited cases of which this is not one. Of course there's nothing stopping you from sending them a bill, but it would be outside your landlord/tenant relationship, since what's happening is functionally the same as a stranger off the street deciding to stash some stuff in your unoccupied unit. You don't have an agreement covering their use of that unit; you have one covering the one they actually live in.

The fact that they live in the building complicates things on an inter-personal level (since going to the mat here could wreck your relationship with a tenant, possibly lose them, etc) but by my read of the MGLs there's no legal connection between the two things.
posted by range at 7:37 PM on April 23, 2012

Your question is not clear.

- Was the tenant given permission to store their things in the empty unit?

- Was the tenant asked to remove the items in writing?

Call the Massachusetts Consumer Hotline, I'm pretty sure they are the ones who can answer your question accurately. If not them, they'll give you the right number to call. It's easy, not a big phone tree or long hold-times.

617-973-8787 or 888-283-3757
posted by jbenben at 11:26 PM on April 23, 2012

Response by poster: The tenant is being given notice today. The tenant in no way had permission to store the items. The items aren't *in* the other unit, they are leaned up against it outside in the elements.
posted by plinth at 3:04 AM on April 24, 2012

IANYL, however, in this case I would say go back to the lease. What does the lease say about the 'other side' of the property. Your title and initial question had conveyed the idea the tenants were storing the items in the actual duplex next to theirs. However, being that it is outside against the 'exterior wall', what does your lease say about neighborly property.

No idea your relationship with your tenant, etc. but it may be a simple misunderstanding on their part of how a duplex works. If they are tenants who have never lived in a duplex they may view the whole structure as part of their living structure and have no problem with it.

If your lease is clear about the boundaries and/or cleanliness of the yard then you should be able to point to the lease in this instance. I am not familiar with your state's laws, etc but in mine it will almost always boil down to the lease and what's in it, and if something isn't in the lease and isn't criminal/obvious destruction of your property, then its one of those live and learn things.
posted by aorkis at 6:36 AM on April 24, 2012

Best answer: OK - here's the answer for MA, unless it is called out in the lease, it is at our expense to maintain the outside of the property in an appropriate and habitable manner. We gave her written notice to remove and properly store the items by a particular date or we would consider them "rubbish" (which is the term used in MA law to describe non-food waste). jbenben - she had already burned any goodwill we had much earlier in the relationship.
posted by plinth at 12:57 PM on May 4, 2012

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