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September 2011 Archives

Massachusetts Security Deposit Law

After finding an apartment and signing a lease, you will also likely be required to make a security deposit. You should know that Massachusetts security deposit laws protect tenants and restrict how much landlords can keep as the deposit, how long they can keep it, and what they can charge against the deposit.

First, a landlord cannot require a security deposit more than the amount of your first month's rent. So if you pay $1,000 a month in rent, the most that your landlord can keep as a security deposit is $1,000. This is true even if the landlord later increases your rent.

Massachusetts Rental Laws -- Signing a Lease

Earlier this week, we wrote about the laws prospective tenants should know when looking for an apartment. Once you've found the apartment of your dreams, you will also want to know practical considerations and Massachusetts rental laws regarding the lease itself.

First, the practical considerations. Do not put any money down on an apartment unless you are sure you want the apartment. While you may be legally entitled to the return of the money, it could be a pain to actually recover it. Also, know what you are putting the money down for. Account for finder's fees and other prepayments, and make sure that the landlord can actually make these charges.

Massachusetts Tenant Rights, Before Signing the Lease

Finding an apartment in Boston can be stressful. The rental market is tough as the city is filled with college students, young professionals, and baby boomers looking to trade down. On top of that, as in every big city, you have to deal with unscrupulous landlords looking to take advantage of the vulnerable.

But as a prospective tenant, you should know that you are protected by the law and have Massachusetts tenant rights even before you sign a lease.

Seeking Zoning Changes

Anyone who has ever thought of turning their home into a home office or small business has probably run across zoning regulations. Zoning laws are local regulations that say what you can, and cannot, do with your land.

On the most basic level, zoning laws divide land into residential, commercial, and industrial zones. This means that you usually can’t open a retail space in a residential neighborhood or have a factory in a strip mall.

Woodland Village in Affordable Housing Chapter 40B Fight

It’s been two years since the Woodland Village affordable housing project has been proposed in the Town of Hanover. After much legal wrangling, it does not seem like the project is any closer to breaking ground as the town and project developers are engaged in a Chapter 40B fight.

The heart of the fight is that the town has zoning laws that would block the development of the affordable housing project creating 152 units, reports The Patriot Ledger. Towns generally have the right to control the land use within their borders through zoning regulations.

4 Top Tips for Landlords

Being a landlord involves much more than simply collecting rent. By taking certain actions, or ignoring certain problems, you may find yourself on the wrong side of a lawsuit. Here are four tips for landlords to ensure efficient management of property and avoidance of legal trouble.

Tip #1: Don't Discriminate Against Prospective Tenants

You cannot make decisions on tenants for discriminatory reasons. For example, you cannot refuse to rent to African-Americans, older people, married couples, or make decisions based on someone's sexual orientation. If you do, you can be sued for discrimination. Instead, you can base rental decisions on legitimate factors like credit history, employment history, and income.

Boston Home Selling Tips

In another depressing real estate survey, half of homeowners across the country now believe that home prices are headed down. While home prices have been falling precipitously for years, homeowners had been surprisingly optimistic, expecting each year to be the rebound year. But after that rebound never happened, homeowners now are expecting the worst, reports The Boston Globe.

Many homeowners who had bought on the upswing or at near-peak prices were probably the longest holdouts, not selling their homes in hopes of higher prices on the horizon. However, as reality begins to settle in, those who had been holding off selling may now be forced to sell.

Watch Out for Condo Square Footage Miscalculation

After location, location, location, perhaps the fourth biggest factor in real estate pricing is square footage. While many people are looking to downsize in this new economy, people are still generally willing to pay more for more space. And so many sellers are inflating their condo square footage figures to increase the values of their homes.

Unlike with single family homes, where the living area square footage is measured from the exterior of the home, the square footage of condominiums are calculated from the interior dimensions, reports The Boston Globe. So the square footage of comparable condos and homes, will usually be measured smaller in condos.

Refinancing Home Mortgages? Do the Math

You may be attracted by advertisements for refinancing home mortgages at low rates. But if you do the math, saving a couple percentage points on home financing may actually cost you more.

Oftentimes, to qualify for the attractive new financing terms, you will need at least 20 percent equity in your home, reports The Boston Globe. So if you don't have this amount of equity, you may be required to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) that would make the seemingly attractive financing rates much higher.

New Neighbors May Not be a Nuisance, But Increased Traffic May Be

The town council in Bridgewater will have until October to decide whether to block the conversion of a 143-acre parcel into the Child’s Bridge Farm subdivision that would add 97 homes to the town.

While the Bridgewater construction project would seem like an economic boon during this particularly difficult real estate market, not all Bridgewater residents are happy with the proposed project. The site of the Child’s Bridge Farm project oversees a scenic part of land near the Taunton River, and current residents are afraid that the construction will ruin the scenery, bog down local roads, and generally invade the peaceful existence they currently enjoy, reports The Enterprise.

July Massachusetts Foreclosure Data Shows Drop

The July Massachusetts foreclosure data reveal that foreclosure petitions went up, but actual completed foreclosures dropped.

Lenders initiated more foreclosures during the month of July, reports The Boston Globe. However, the number of completed property seizures dropped by 38 percent to 775 as compared to the number of foreclosures in July 2010. Overall, the Warren Group study showed that there have been 4,530 foreclosures in Massachusetts for the year.