Updated on

Month-to-Month Lease Laws in Massachusetts

Massachusetts allows the landlord or tenant to end a month-to-month lease at any time, as long as they give 30 days’ notice.

Month-to-month tenancies are an alternative to fixed-term tenancies, which have a specific start and end date. Fixed-term leases typically last one year and aren’t as flexible as month-to-month tenancies.

Month-to-month leases offer a lot more flexibility to both landlords and tenants, especially since either party can end them at any time with at least 30 days’ notice. Massachusetts state law specifically refers to month-to-month tenants as "tenants at will," and lays out clear guidelines for the treatment of month-to-month leases.

In this article

Establishing a month-to-month lease
Ending the lease
Modifying the lease

Establishing a month-to-month lease in Massachusetts

Month-to-month leases are a type of periodic tenancy that automatically renews at the end of every rent payment period. Landlords and tenants can establish a month-to-month tenancy in Massachusetts in four ways:

  1. The landlord and tenant have a verbal agreement to rent from month to month.1
  2. The landlord and tenant sign a written lease specifically creating a month-to-month tenancy or that doesn’t have an end date.2
  3. The tenant continues to pay rent after a fixed-term lease expires and the landlord accepts the rent, establishing a month-to-month tenancy.3
  4. The landlord sends the tenant a valid notice to quit terminating the tenancy—and then allows the tenant to stay without signing a new lease.4

Ending a month-to-month lease in Massachusetts

Both the landlord or tenant can end a month-to-month lease in Massachusetts with written notice. State law doesn’t require notice to be delivered personally or by certified mail, suggesting that email or text may be acceptable means of providing notice. State law requires that the time of notice be equal to the time between rent payments or 30 days, whichever is longer.5 However, either party may be able to give less notice if it’s stipulated in a written lease.

Once proper notice is given, the tenancy ends the following rental period on the day on which rent is due.6 For example, if the tenant gives notice on July 18th, the tenancy would end on September 1st.

The state also allows for a termination notice to include an offer to establish a new tenancy for the rental on different terms, such as higher rent payments or a new utility policy.

Either party can end a month-to-month lease for any reason

Landlords don’t have to give a reason to end the tenancy as long as they aren’t ending it to retaliate against the tenant or for discriminatory reasons on the basis of race, gender, or any other protected class under fair housing laws. For example, a landlord can end the tenancy either because of the tenant’s behavior or because they want to move in themselves.

If a landlord wants to evict the tenant for breaking the terms of a month-to-month lease, not paying rent, or engaging in illegal behavior, they must follow the formal eviction process, which includes 14 days’ written notice to the tenant. The eviction process in Massachusetts is very specific and can take up to two years. Because of this, landlords may be better off ending a month-to-month lease with 30-day notice.

Changing a month-to-month lease in Massachusetts

Landlords can increase rent (or change other lease terms) at any time as long as they give 30 days’ notice. Massachusetts doesn’t impose any limits on how much rent can be raised—but the tenant must agree to the new amount. If they don’t, they can either negotiate with the landlord or send their own 30-day notice of termination.

This differs from a fixed-term lease, where rent can’t be increased until the end of the lease (unless otherwise stated in the written agreement).

[1] MGLA Chapter 183 §3

[2] MGLA Chapter 183 §4

[3] MGLA Chapter 186 §3

[4] MGLA Chapter 186 §11

[5] MGLA Chapter 186 §12

[6] Means vs. Cotton (1916)

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.