Finder’s Fee: When renting an apartment, you are not permitted to charge a finder’s fee to a prospective tenant if you are also the landlord of the unit. Only a licensed broker or salesperson can lawfully collect a fee for bringing together a landlord and a tenant.
Duty Not to Discriminate Unlawfully: A matrix of Federal, State and local laws combine to prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex (gender), sexual orientation, age, marital status, religion, military/veteran status, blindness, hearing impairment, receipt of public assistance or housing subsidy, and children, with minor exceptions.
Discrimination is prohibited against children because the apartment contains lead paint and you do not want to incur the expense of de-leading the apartment. Be certain your rental agents understand that you will not tolerate rental discrimination.
Screening Prospective Tenants: Because paying your mortgage is directly dependent upon your tenants paying you, you should always run a credit check and a check of the tenant’s prior rental history through companies making this information available for a nominal fee.
You should always confirm current employment, salary level, prospects for remaining with the employer, and landlord references from not just the current landlord, but the tenant’s landlord just prior to the prospective tenant’s current landlord.
Also, you may want to meet your tenants prior to giving final approval, especially in an owner-occupied multi-unit rental. The rule of thumb that tenants should pay no more than 1/4 of their income for rent has been stretched beyond that recommendation by increases in market rents. However, if the tenants offer a co-signature of a parent or friend on their lease to guarantee their rental obligation to you, consider carefully that a guarantee by an out-of-state signer is very difficult to enforce.
Pre-Rental Preparation of The Apartment: Before renting an apartment, you should inspect it completely after the current tenant vacates or near the end of the current tenant’s occupancy to assess any damage, to assure that it is in good repair when attempting to re-rent the apartment, and for the incoming tenant once it has been rented.
You are obligated under certain circumstances to have the local Board of Health inspect and verify that the apartment meets State Sanitary Code and safety standards prior to re-renting.
It makes good business sense to do this in all occasions whether required to or not, because anticipating and resolving problems before they become major issues is essential to the smooth, cost-effective and profitable operation of residential property.
Inspector’s Sign-Off Once All Violations Cited Have Been Repaired: Obtain the Inspector’s sign-off once all violations have been corrected. This sign-off also acts as a violation-free base line if the tenant should claim there are problems with the apartment after taking occupancy.
Obligation to Delead the Apartment: Whenever a child under the age of six (6) resides in residential premises containing unlawful levels of lead, you are obligated to properly remove the offending substances.
You or your agent are required to give the Massachusetts Lead Law Notification form to tenants regarding the dangers of lead paint, and the requirement to remove lead paint where children under the age of six (6) intend to reside.
Maximum Pre-payments: While a tenant may have a pet or some interest such as portrait painting, which may potentially harm the apartment, you are prohibited from collecting as advance payments more than the first and last month’s rent, one month’s security deposit, and the cost of installing a new lock.
It is an unfair or deceptive practice for you to demand that a tenant prepay rent when a tenant is not obligated to and did not, in fact, occupy the dwelling, unless otherwise agreed to in writing by both parties.
A violation of the Consumer Protection Statute, c.93A, for committing an unfair or deceptive act against a tenant exposes you to up to treble damages, costs and payment of the tenant’s attorney’s fees.
Your legal rights will vary depending on the type of tenancy.
A Tenant under Lease: A lease generally means a signed agreement to rent an apartment for a finite time, for a specific amount of money usually paid per month. You may not evict the tenant before the end of the term, unless the tenant violates some provision of the lease.
You may not increase the rent until the end of the term, unless the lease states otherwise. Most leases provide that if the tenant violates the lease you may evict the tenant. A fourteen (I 4) day notice to quit is required for nonpayment of rent.
Although your tenant has agreed to pay you for every month of the tenancy the lease exists, if the tenant leaves the apartment without your consent, the tenant, except as stated below, owes rent for the entire remaining balance of the lease. However, you must make reasonable efforts to find a new tenant to take over the balance of the former tenant’s lease. This is known as the landlord’s duty to mitigate damages.
Tenancy at Will: You have a Tenancy at Will when, with your permission, a person occupies your apartment, paying rent regularly, usually monthly. A Tenancy at Will may be written or oral.
Either you or your tenant may terminate this agreement at any time for a specific reason or for no reason by giving 30 days written notice or notice which covers a full rental period, whichever is longer. Termination of a Tenancy at Will for nonpayment requires only a 14 day notice to quit.
While a valid Tenancy at Will may be either oral or written, reducing the agreement to writing provides added protections for both you and the tenant, and this should be done at all times.
It is also recommended that the tenancy agreement be written because, in the absence of a writing placing the burden of paying utilities on the tenant, the law places the burden of paying those utilities on the landlord, even in the face of an oral agreement stating the tenant will pay them. A handshake is nice, but a written agreement is far better.
Subsidized Tenancy: Most aspects of a subsidized tenancy are controlled by the lease and applicable State and Federal law, much of which differs from the summaries given here for market rate tenants.
A last month’s rent is a prepayment made at the beginning of the tenancy to the landlord to be applied to the last month of the tenancy. There is no requirement for you to escrow the money in a separate interest-bearing account.
A receipt must be given at the time the last month’s rent is taken indicating the amount, date of receipt, a notation identifying the money as a last month’s rent, the name of the person receiving the money or for whom the money is being received, the description of the premises for which the last month’s rent is taken, a statement indicating the tenant’s entitlement to yearly interest at the rate of 5 percent or such lesser amount as the landlord actually receives if the landlord chooses to escrow the money, and a statement telling the tenant to provide a forwarding address by the end of the tenancy to which the interest may be sent.
Upon increase of the rent, you may require the tenant to increase his or her last month’s rent to the current rent level.
Payment of Interest On Last Month’s Rent: Interest must be paid to the tenant either on the anniversary date of the tenancy or on a pro-rata basis, if the tenancy ends before one year, for all months except the last month of the tenancy.
On the anniversary date of the tenancy, the landlord must send a statement as to the amount of interest due with payment of that interest or a statement indicating that the tenant may deduct the appropriate amount from the next rental payment.
If you have not sent either of the above to the tenant by the anniversary date of the tenancy, the tenant may lawfully deduct the prescribed amount of interest from the next rental payment.
This deduction is not a breach of the tenancy agreement allowing eviction. If you do not pay the interest within 30 days after the end of the tenancy or the removal of the tenant from the premises, you will be exposed to liability of three times the interest due, plus court costs and attorney’s fees.
Transfer of Last Month’s Rent to New Landlord: Upon the sale, foreclosure or other transfer of the building, the landlord must transfer the last month’s rent to the new landlord with accrued interest.
The new landlord must give the tenant written notice of the transfer within 45 days of receipt. If the former owner fails to make the proper transfer, s/he is still liable to the tenant, but so is the new landlord in the amount of the last month’s rent.
The new landlord can discharge their duty to the tenant, by allowing the tenant to live free for a period covered by the last month’s rent.
Security Deposit: A security deposit is money, paid by the tenant to you, and held in a separate interest-bearing escrow account to indemnify you against losses due to the tenant’s failure to pay rent, failure to pay appropriate tax escalators, or if the tenant damages the premises.
Because this deposit belongs to the tenant until properly applied by you, you must:
- Hold the deposit in an interest-bearing Massachusetts bank separate from your own money;
- Give a receipt to the tenant within 30 days of taking the deposit, identifying the bank, address, account number, and the amount of the deposit held; and
- Pay 5 percent interest or any lesser amount of interest actually received from the bank where the deposit is held, if the tenant resides on the premises for at least one year. Said payment is to he made on the anniversary date of the tenancy.
Payment of Interest on Security Deposit: On the anniversary date of the tenancy, you must send the tenant a statement of the interest owed with a check for the interest, or you must notify the tenant that s/he may deduct it from the next rental payment.
If within 30 days of the anniversary date of the tenancy you have failed to pay the interest, the tenant may lawfully deduct it from the next rent payment. Upon termination of the tenancy, you must forward the interest due to the tenant within 30 days.
Statement of Conditions: Either upon receipt of the deposit or within ten (10) days thereafter, you must provide the tenant with a Statement of Conditions, which contains a comprehensive list of all then-existing damage to the unit, which list is signed by you or your agent.
The notice must inform the tenant that s/he must sign the list within fifteen (15) days of receipt or move-in, if it is correct. You must further inform the tenant that failure to re-submit the list may allow a court to view the tenant’s failure to sign as agreement to the completeness of the landlord’s proposed Statement of Conditions.
You then have fifteen (15) days to sign off on the tenant’s list of damages or to send a clear statement of disagreement to the tenant. Although there are forms available for these purposes, it is recommended that an attorney or other real estate professional be consulted when taking a security deposit.
Deductions from Security Deposit: Upon termination of the tenancy, you must return the security deposit or balance thereof within thirty (30) days of the tenant’s vacating the apartment. You may only deduct for the following items:
- Unpaid rent not lawfully withheld;
- Unpaid increases in real estate taxes the tenant is bound to pay pursuant to a valid tax escalator clause in the lease; and
- Any reasonable amount necessary to repair damage caused by the tenant or their pets or guests.
The normal wear and tear in an apartment is not a deductible item of damage.
If you deduct for damages, you must provide the tenant with a statement sworn to under the pains and penalties of perjury listing the damages for which you are deducting along with documentation showing the actual or estimated costs of these repairs such as bills, receipts, or invoices.
You may not deduct for damages set out in the respective Statements of Conditions unless you made repairs to them subsequent to the start of the tenancy and they were again damaged by the tenant or persons within the tenant’s control.
If damages exceed the security deposit, you are free to sue for those as well.
Notice from New Owner: Within forty-five (45) days of the transfer, the new owner must notify the tenant that the security deposit has been transferred and that s/he is holding it for the benefit of the tenant. The notice must be written and must contain the new owner’s name, business address, business telephone number, and the same information for any agent.
Penalties for Failure to Properly Handle Security Deposit: If you do the following, the tenant is entitled to the immediate return of the security deposit:
- Fail to make the security deposit records available to the tenant during business hours;
- Fail within thirty (30) days of taking a security deposit to give the tenant a receipt with the name, address of the bank where the money is held, and account number of the bank in the amount of the deposit;
- Make deductions for damages without submitting the proper documentation described above; or
- Use a lease with provisions that conflict with the security deposit law and you attempt to enforce this lease or attempt to make the tenant waive his or her rights.
If you do the following, the tenant is entitled to the immediate return of the security deposit and treble damages, court costs and attorney’s fees:
- Fail to place the security deposit into a Massachusetts interest-bearing bank account separate from your own;
- Fail to return the security deposit or balance thereof within thirty (30) days after termination of the tenancy; or
- Fail to transfer the security deposit to the new landlord.
A new landlord has the some transfer responsibilities as stated above for last month’s rent.
Continuing Liability of Former Owner: The former owner and agent remain liable under the treble damages provision of the Statute for retention and accounting, until either:
- The security deposit has been transferred and the tenant has been given the above-written notice; or
- The security deposit has been returned to the tenant.
The new owner has full liability for treble damages, even if the former owner fails to transfer the security deposit and fails to give the proper notice described immediately above.
It is recommended that if you choose to take a security deposit, you consult an attorney or other real estate professional before doing so, because the penalties for failing to properly handle the tenant’s money are severe.
The Right to Prompt Payment: You have the right to receive the rent on the first of each month unless the parties otherwise agree. There is no grace period in Massachusetts and therefore if the tenant does not pay on the first of the month, you may begin an eviction by sending a notice to quit.
The Right to Have Compliance with Tenancy Agreement: You have the right to have the tenant abide by the terms of the tenancy, whether it is oral or written.
If the tenant breaches the terms of the tenancy, for example by having unauthorized sub-tenants, pets, smokers, or other prohibited uses such as raising pigeons in the apartment, you have the right to terminate the tenancy and to move to evict. See Eviction below.
Increasing Rent: You may increase the rent in any amount you believe the market will bear for a non-subsidized unit or for a unit that does not fall under the few remaining restrictions of rent control pertaining to mobile homes, under the following circumstances.
Under a tenancy at will, you must end the tenancy and notify the tenant of the rent increase at least a full rental period in advance, but not less than 30 days in advance of the effective date of the increase.
You may only increase the rent of a tenant under a lease after the lease term expires, unless the lease states otherwise. Typically, the lease will state notice deadlines for renewal which should be observed when seeking a rent increase of a tenant under lease. Rent increases can be complicated.
The advice of an attorney should be sought before attempting it. For, doing it incorrectly, could lead to costly, time-consuming and needless problems or litigation with your tenant.
Late Payment Penalty: You may not charge a late fee or penalty for rent paid past the due date unless it is paid 30 days or more past the due date. A reverse penalty to encourage early payment is also illegal.
For instance, where you promised to reduce the rent by 10 percent if the rent is paid within the first five days of the month, this is an illegal provision. However, because there is no “grace period,” you may begin eviction if the rent is only one day late.
Utilities: You may require tenants to pay their own electricity and gas bills. But, if you do not put this obligation in a written tenancy agreement, you may later be charged with paying past utility bills, if the tenant refuses to pay, despite having verbally agreed to pay them.
The Right to Enter the Apartment: A landlord may generally enter the apartment at reasonable times and upon reasonable notice for these reasons:
- To show the apartment to prospective tenants, purchasers, lenders or their agents;
- To inspect the premises;
- To make repairs;
- To inspect within 30 days of the end of the tenancy to determine damages to be deducted from the security deposit;
- If the premises appear to be abandoned; or
- Pursuant to Court order.
Duty to Provide Habitable Premises: You must provide habitable apartments and common areas for the entire tenancy in accordance with the minimum standards of the State Sanitary Code which seeks to protect the health, safety, and well-being of your tenants and the general public.
Heat: Landlords must provide a heating system for each apartment or one system that services all apartments in good working order. The landlord must pay for the fuel to provide heat and hot water and electricity unless the written rental agreement states that the tenant must pay for these.
The heating season runs from September 16 through June 14th, during which every room must be heated to between 68 degrees Fahrenheit and not more than 78 degrees Fahrenheit between 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., and at least 64 degrees Fahrenheit at all other hours.
Kitchens: In each kitchen landlords must provide a sink sufficient for washing dishes and kitchen utensils, stove and oven in good working order, unless the written rental agreement states the tenant must provide this, and electrical hook-ups for installation of a refrigerator. The landlord is not required to provide a refrigerator but, if s/he does, it must be maintained by the landlord in good working order.
Water: The landlord must provide water at the landlord’s expense with sufficient pressure to meet the ordinary needs of your tenants. You must provide the facilities for hearing water to a temperature between 110 degrees Fahrenheit and 130 degrees Fahrenheit and you must pay for this fuel unless the written tenancy agreement states that the tenant must pay for it.
Infestation: You must maintain the common areas and apartments free from rodent, insect and other infestation if there are two or more apartments in the building.
Structural Elements: You must maintain the foundation, floors, walls, doors, windows, ceilings, roof, stairwells, porches, chimneys and all structural elements so as to exclude wind, rain, and snow; so as to be rodent-proof, weather tight, watertight, and free of chronic dampness, in good repair and fit for human habitation at all times.
Maintenance of Exits: Each exit used or intended for use by the building’s occupants must be maintained by you and kept free of all snow, trash and other obstructions.
Rent Withholding: If you fail to maintain the premises during the entire tenancy, in habitable condition, your tenants may rightfully withhold part of the rent from the date you have notice of breach of the Warranty of Habitability, if:
- They complained to you of defects or problems or the Board of Health cited the apartment or building for Code violations;
- The tenant was not in arrears in rent before you knew of the conditions complained of;
- You do not show that the complained of conditions were caused by the tenant or occupant;
- The premises are not in a hotel or motel or in a lodging house in which the tenant had resided for less than three (3) consecutive months; and
- You fail to show that the needed repairs are so extensive that the apartment must be vacated to complete them.
Repair and Deduct: Your tenant may validly make repairs him/herself and deduct from future rent if:
- The Board of Health certifies that there are violations present which may endanger health, safety, or well-being of the residents;
- You are notified in writing of the violation;
- You have failed to contract with someone to do the repairs within five (5) days of receiving written notice or you fail to substantially complete the repairs within fourteen (I14) days of receiving notice;
- The tenant did not cause the violations;
- The tenant must deduct only reasonable amounts of rent in light of the violations and alternative corrective measures; and
- The tenant did not unreasonably deny you access to make repairs.
- The tenant is limited to a maximum deduction of four (4) months in a twelve (12) month period. If your tenant does not wish to make repairs, and the problems have been certified by the local Board of Health to exist as described above, the tenant may declare the tenancy void and may leave within a reasonable time so long as, the tenant pays the fair rental value for the time s/he occupies the apartment.
Retaliation: You cannot retaliate against your tenants for exercising their legal rights such as complaining to you or the Board of Health about problems with the apartment, joining a tenant’s union or lawfully withholding rent or repairing and deducting.
It will be presumed that you are retaliating against your tenant if within six (6) months of the tenant’s exercising any protected rights as briefly stated above, you terminate the tenancy, increase the rent, or otherwise attempt to change the terms of the tenancy. In order to then avoid penalties of up to three (3) month’s rent, attorney’s fees and costs of the action, you will then have to prove in court non-retaliatory reasons for doing these acts.
Like any business, the efficient operation of residential property requires good record keeping. It is strongly urged that you keep detailed records of all aspects of the tenancy. In addition to the extensive records required of you if you take a security deposit, you should keep records of all contacts and complaints by tenants, with dates and notes regarding conversations; contacts with repairmen, health department inspections, invoices, paid repair and stock bills, and similar information.
Massachusetts tenants have many rights and remedies. Frequently, good records mean the difference between winning and losing your case in court or avoiding court altogether.
Resolving Disputes Without Court: When complaints or disputes with tenants arise, investigate them and address them quickly. Ignoring tenant complaints or flatly refusing to address them can lead to costly, acrimonious, eviction cases, and a prolonged stoppage of rent payments while the matter is litigated.
While bills are pending in the state legislature that would require rent escrowing by the tenant who contests an eviction, as of this writing, there are no such requirements in existence.
Therefore, it is prudent to try to resolve all issues before filing an eviction case in court, after which time, the tenant may well cease paying rent until a judge tells him or her how much and when they must begin paying again for their continued occupancy of your apartment. This could and often does take many months to resolve if contested.
In attempting to work with tenants having a hard time financially, or suffering other problems which interfere with their living up to their agreement with you, do not allow the problems to drag on for long without fairly quick written resolution.
Because Summary Process cases (eviction cases) can take months to resolve, especially if contested, if you allow a nonpayment situation to continue for long without receiving regular payments against the arrearage, you will have lost many months of rent by the time you win an execution (court order for the move out). In the absence of any mandatory rent escrowing requirement, you will likely lose the rent entirely for the intervening months.
Near the end of a lease, you may sometimes begin eviction, if you have substantial grounds to believe the tenant is likely to continue in possession of the premises after the termination date in the lease. However, no Execution (court order for the move out) can issue before the termination date in the lease.
But, you will have saved time and perhaps the incoming tenancy by having the court’s permission before hand to evict a tenant holding over after his or her lease has ended.
If you want a tenant out of your apartment permanently, the only way to evict the tenant lawfully is by getting an Execution (court order for the move out.) You cannot lock out a tenant under any but, a few narrowly interpreted and exceptional circumstances.
The penalties for unlawfully shutting off the tenant’s utilities or for unlawfully barring a tenant access to the apartment without an Execution can be severe, running the gamut from three month’s rent, attorney’s fees, and injunctions forcing you to put the wronged tenant back into the apartment, and criminal penalties and fines in some instances.
Termination of Tenancy: Notice to Quit
Tenants under Lease: If you want to evict a tenant under a lease for a reason other than nonpayment, such as having unauthorized subtenants, or property damage, the lease will generally tell you what type of Notice to Quit you must use and when to serve it. If you are evicting the tenant for nonpayment, you must send a 14 day Notice to Quit.
But, if the tenant pays all monies due, plus costs, interest and your court filing fees by the date her Answer is due in court, the tenant has an absolute right to stop the eviction.
Tenants at Will: If you are evicting for a reason other than nonpayment or for no reason, you must give the tenant a 30 day Notice to Quit. If the eviction is for nonpayment, you must give 14 day Notice to Quit. But, if the tenant pays the amount claimed due, plus costs, interest and your court filing fees in 10 days, and if this is only the first Notice to Quit for nonpayment within 12 months, the tenant has an absolute right to stop the eviction.
If you do not place notice of this fact in the Notice to Quit, the tenant has a right to stop the eviction by paying the above sums not later then the date his Answer is due in court.
Subsidized Tenancies: While eviction of these tenants is no longer subject to the exclusive authorization of the local housing authority, eviction is still controlled by the specific terms of the lease and by a matrix of federal and state law. An attorney should be consulted when evicting a subsidized tenant.
The many types of Notices to Quit vary depending on the type of tenancy sought to be terminated and the rights you wish to reserve to yourself after terminating the tenancy.
The rules governing timing and method of service are confusing to the new landlord as well. It is recommended that you should not rely solely on the advice of a constable when sending a Notice to Quit, but rather that you also consult an attorney before you move to evict.
Although most constables are knowledgeable as to service, they may not know all of the requirements of terminating tenancies technically required of you in order not to have your case dismissed in court, or to reserve certain rights to you.
When the notice period ends, you or your lawyer must serve a Summary Process Summons and Complaint on the tenant. This officially brings the tenant under the court’s power and informs him or her of the trial date, the place of the hearing, the reasons for eviction and how much money, if any, you claim the tenant owes you.
This is the tenant’s written response sent to you in which s/he states why s/he should not be evicted and what, if any, counterclaims for money damages s/he has against you such as violations of the State Sanitary Code, retaliation, or faulty eviction procedures.
If you cannot reach an agreement with the tenant resolving the reasons for eviction, there will be a trial. At this hearing, the tenant and you or your lawyer present your witnesses and documents and a judge or jury decides if you win or if the tenant wins and how much money, if any, the tenant must pay or how much, if any, you must pay the tenant.
Either party may appeal within 10 days of entry of the judgment, if dissatisfied with the outcome of the trial, by filing a Notice of Appeal. But, as a condition of the tenant’s appeal, s/ he must post an appeal bond in an amount determined by the court. Or, the court may waive the bond if the tenant can show s/he is indigent and has a real defense. If the bond is waived by the court, the tenant must still pay the rent which comes due during the appeal. If the court will not waive the bond, the tenant must pay past due rent and rent accruing as the appeal progresses, if the tenant wants to stay in the apartment during the appeal. The tenant cannot be physically evicted until the appeal has been dismissed or decided. Appeals are fraught with procedural pitfalls and should be undertaken with a knowledgeable attorney.
The execution is the court’s order requiring the tenant to move from the apartment. After the appeal is decided or dismissed, execution will issue, but not before then. The execution must be used within three months of its issuance or it expires. If you accept the full amount of the rent awarded by the court in a nonpayment case, you effectively waive your right to remove the tenant and you have created a new tenancy.
To physically remove the tenant from your apartment, you must hire a constable and a moving company, if the tenant has refused your request to go. The constable must give the tenant 48 hours notice that s/he is coming with the truck. On the date set, the constable goes to the property, physically removes the tenant and her goods, orders the movers to store them in a storage facility, at your expense initially, and gives the keys to you. That ends the eviction process.
The tenant must now go to the storage company for her property. Because the warehouse has a lien on the property for its unpaid fees, if the tenant does not retrieve the property within six months, the warehouse may sell it. You may sue the tenant for your costs of the eviction.
If the eviction was a no-fault eviction and if the tenant cannot find a new apartment, s/he may ask the judge for a stay of execution of up to six months, or if s/he is elderly or handicapped, up to one year. If the eviction was for nonpayment, technically, the judge has no power to grant a stay. However, if in a nonpayment case, the tenant’s award on his counterclaims was less than the amount of rent awarded to you, the tenant can avoid eviction by paying the difference, with interest and court costs in seven (7) days.
When the tenant is leaving, you should view the apartment, take pictures and review the statement of conditions, if any, so as to definitively verify the condition of the apartment on the date of move out. This will establish what was damaged by the tenant during his time in the apartment and should avoid a later problem with security deposit deductions and possible litigation.
– Source… Mass.gov website
Before Agreeing to Tenancy (or Signing a Lease):
- Do not put money down unless you are sure you want the apartment. Although you may be legally entitled to the return of your money up until the landlord formally accepts you as a tenant (that money may be difficult to recover.)
- Calculate the anticipated costs of utilities (i.e., heat, electricity) when determining which apartments you can afford.
- Know what is expected of you in terms of pre-payments or a finder’s fee.
- Check the apartment to ensure that it is in acceptable condition. Put all agreements for repairs in writing.
- Talk with prospective neighbors about the competency and reputation of the landlord and/or management company.
Rental Agreements: According to state consumer protection regulations, a landlord must include the following in a written rental agreement:
- The names, addresses and telephone numbers of the owners and other persons who are responsible for the care, maintenance and repair of the property;
- The name, address and telephone number of the person authorized to receive notices of violations of law and to accept notice of lawsuit on behalf of the owner;
- The amount of the security deposit and disclosure of rights under the Security Deposit Law.
You may want to meet the landlord of a small owner occupied building before you sign the agreement. This tends to foster a good and congenial relationship from the start.
The landlord also must give you an executed copy of this agreement within 30 days of your signing it. You and the landlord may agree verbally to the terms of your tenancy. It is safer, however, to get all terms in writing.
Your legal rights may vary depending on what type of tenancy you have.
A Tenant with a Lease is one who signs a lease to rent a particular apartment for a specified period of time. Under this tenancy, the landlord cannot increase your rent until the end of the lease, and cannot attempt to evict you before the end of your lease, unless you violate the lease agreement. You are legally obligated to pay your rent until the end of the lease. However, if you need to move out before the end of the lease, in most circumstances the landlord has a duty to help reduce your damages by looking for another tenant to replace you.
A Tenant at Will is one who occupies a rented apartment without a lease, but pays rent periodically (typically monthly). The agreement for the Tenancy at Will may be either written or verbal. Either the landlord or you may terminate this arrangement at any time by giving written notice 30 days or one full rental period in advance, whichever is longer.
No reason is required to terminate. If your landlord wants to raise your rent, s/he must send you a proper legal notice terminating your tenancy, and then make you an offer to remain in the apartment for the increased rent.
If your tenancy is subsidized, you may have different rights and responsibilities than those summarized in this brochure.
As a tenant, you have a legal responsibility to pay your landlord rent for the use of a place that is in decent condition. Massachusetts law also provides you with rights that protect the payments you make to the landlord.
Prepayments: It is an unfair or deceptive practice for a landlord to demand that you pre-pay rent in excess of that allowed by law. (See Finding an Apartment.)
Late Payment Penalty: A landlord cannot charge interest or a penalty on late rent until 30 days after the due date. However, the landlord can begin the eviction process immediately, even if the rent is only one day overdue. The landlord also cannot use a reverse penalty clause to encourage you to pay early. For example, it is illegal for a landlord to reduce the rent by 10% if the rent is paid within the first five days of the month.
Rent Increases: A rental increase may be any amount the landlord wishes to charge. Rent for a tenant with a lease can be increased only when the lease term expires. Tenants at will may face a rent increase any time, as long as notice is received at least one full rental period, but not less than 30 days, before it becomes effective.
Security Deposits and Last Month’s Rent: Last month’s rent is the pre-payment to the landlord for the last month of tenancy. A security deposit is a deposit of money to the landlord to ensure that rent will be paid and other responsibilities of the agreement will be performed. Neither may be greater than the amount of one month’s rent. If the landlord later raises the rent, s/he can require you to increase the amounts of both pre-payments to equal the new rent. Neither the landlord nor you can transfer one for the use of the other without the other party’s consent.
Receipts: Upon receiving the last month’s rent and/or a security deposit, the landlord must give you a receipt for each pre-payment. If the landlord collects the last month’s rent, s/he must give you a statement indicating that you are entitled to interest on this rent and that you should provide the landlord with a forwarding address at the termination of tenancy where interest can be sent.
Interest: The landlord must pay interest on both the security deposit and the last month’s rent. The payment of interest on security deposits and last month’s rent has been required by law since January 1, 1972 , and April 1, 1984 , respectively.
Security deposit: You are entitled to either 5% interest or whatever lesser amount received from the bank where the deposit has been held, if you live in the apartment for at least one year.
The law requires the landlord to hold a security deposit in a separate, interest bearing account in a Massachusetts bank. Within 30 days of receiving your deposit, the landlord must give you a receipt identifying the bank’s name and address, the account number, and the amount of the deposit.
Last month’s rent: You are entitled to either 5% interest or whatever lesser amount received from the bank where the rent was held. If the last month’s rent is not held in a bank account, the landlord must pay 5 percent interest per year. You do not have to live in your apartment for one year to be eligible for the interest.
Payment of Interest: Interest is payable to you each year on the anniversary date of your tenancy. The landlord must send you a statement of the interest owed, and must either include the interest, or allow you to deduct the amount from the next rental payment.
If you do not receive the interest within 30 days of the anniversary, then you may deduct the interest from the next month’s rent. Once you terminate your tenancy, any interest owed to you must be paid within 30 days of termination.
Statement of Condition: If a landlord or agent takes a security deposit, s/he must give you a signed, separate statement of the present condition of your apartment including a comprehensive list of any existing damage. The landlord/agent must provide you with this statement upon receipt of the deposit or within 10 days after the tenancy begins, whichever is later.
If you do not agree with the contents of the statement, you must return a corrected copy to the landlord within 15 days after you receive the list or 15 days after you move in, whichever is later. If you fail to return the list and later sue to recover your security deposit, a court may view your failure to do so as your agreement that the list is complete and correct. If you submit a separate list of damages, the landlord must return it within 15 days of receipt with a clear written response of agreement or disagreement.
The signed statement and the original condition statement are the basis upon which future deductions for damage will be made. If the landlord does not give you a Statement of Condition, you should write your own and send a copy to the landlord or agent and keep a copy for your records.
Security deposit: You are entitled to either 5% interest or whatever lesser amount received from the bank where the deposit has been held, if you live in the apartment for at least one year. The law requires the landlord to hold a security deposit in a separate, interest bearing account in a Massachusetts bank.
Within 30 days of receiving your deposit, the landlord must give you a receipt identifying the bank’s name and address, the account number, and the amount of the deposit.
Last month’s rent: You are entitled to either 5% interest or whatever lesser amount received from the bank where the rent was held. You do not have to live in your apartment for one year to be eligible for the interest.
Payment of Interest: Interest is payable to you each year on the anniversary date of your tenancy. The landlord must send you a statement of the interest owed, and must either include the interest, or allow you to deduct the amount from the next rental payment. If you do not receive the interest within 30 days of the anniversary, then you may deduct the interest from the next month’s rent. Once you terminate your tenancy, any interest owed to you must be paid within 30 days of termination.
Statement of Condition: If a landlord or agent takes a security deposit, s/he must give you a signed, separate statement of the present condition of your apartment including a comprehensive list of any existing damage. The landlord/agent must provide you with this statement upon receipt of the deposit or within 10 days after the tenancy begins, whichever is later.
If you do not agree with the contents of the statement, you must return a corrected copy to the landlord within 15 days after you receive the list or 15 days after you move in, whichever is later. If you fail to return the list and later sue to recover your security deposit, a court may view your failure to do so as your agreement that the list is complete and correct.
If you submit a separate list of damages, the landlord must return it within 15 days of receipt with a clear written response of agreement or disagreement.
The signed statement and the original condition statement are the basis upon which future deductions for damage will be made. If the landlord does not give you a Statement of Condition, you should write your own and send a copy to the landlord or agent.
Damage Deduction for Security Deposits: The landlord must return your security deposit or balance within 30 days after the termination of tenancy. The landlord can only deduct for the following:
- Any unpaid rent which has not been withheld validly or deducted in accordance with the law;
- Any unpaid increase in real estate taxes if you were obligated to pay it under a valid tax escalator clause in your lease; and
- A reasonable amount necessary to repair any damage caused by you, any person under your control, or any person on the premises with your consent. Pet damage can also be deducted. You do not have to pay for reasonable wear and tear associated with normal use.
If the premises are damaged, the landlord must provide you with a detailed list of damages and their necessary repairs within 30 days after the tenancy ends. The landlord or agent must swear to this list under the pains and penalties of perjury.
In addition, the landlord or agent must provide you with written evidence indicating the actual or estimated cost of these repairs, such as estimates, bills, invoices, or receipts.
Transfers of Pre-payments to New Landlords: Upon sale or transfer of the building, the landlord must credit the last month’s rent and security deposit with any accrued interest to the new landlord. The new landlord must give written notice of the transfer within 45 days of receiving your money.
If the former landlord fails to transfer the pre-payments to the new landlord, she/he is still liable, but the new landlord shall also be obligated to you for the amount of the pre-payments. The new landlord can satisfy this obligation by granting you free rent for a time equivalent to the payments made.
You are entitled to the immediate return of your security deposit if the landlord:
- Fails to make the security deposit records available for inspection during office hours; or
- Fails to provide you, within 30 days of receipt of the security deposit, a receipt with the name and location of the bank and the amount and account number of the deposit;
- Makes deductions for damages and fails to furnish you with an itemized list of damages within 30 days after termination of tenancy; or
- Uses a lease which contains provisions conflicting with the security deposit law and attempts to enforce these provisions or attempts to get you to sign a waiver of rights.
Under the above-mentioned circumstances, the landlord cannot keep your security deposit for any reason, including making deductions for damages.
And if the landlord fails:
- To deposit the security deposit into a bank account;
- To return the security deposit (or balance after lawful deductions) with interest within 30 days after termination of tenancy; or
- To transfer the security deposit or last month’s rent to the new landlord;
- You are entitled to the immediate return of your security deposit AND triple damages, plus court costs, and reasonable attorney’s fees. You also are entitled to triple damages, the unpaid interest, court costs, and reasonable attorney’s fees if the landlord fails to pay interest on the last month’s rent within 30 days after termination of tenancy.
Rights Against Unlawful Entry: Your landlord, or an agent for your landlord, may only enter your apartment for the following reasons:
- To inspect the premises;
- To make repairs;
- To show the apartment to a prospective tenant, purchaser, mortgagee or its agents;
- In accordance with a court order;
- If the premises appear to be abandoned, or
- To inspect the premises within the last 30 days of tenancy in order to determine the amount of damage to be deducted from the security deposit.
The landlord should be reasonable and attempt to arrange a mutually convenient time to visit the apartment. If the landlord insists on entering your apartment in an unreasonable fashion, you may file for a temporary restraining order at your local district court.
Rights Against Retaliation: Although the landlord of a tenant at will can terminate the tenancy or raise the rent without reason, s/he cannot do so in response to your exercising your legal rights.
If the landlord tries to raise the rent, terminate or otherwise change your tenancy within six months of when you contact the Board of Health, join a tenants’ organization, or exercise other legal rights, the landlord’s action will be considered retaliation against you, unless the landlord can prove otherwise. The landlord will have the burden to prove that your tenancy was changed for reasons other than your having exercised your rights.
Habitability Rights: You are entitled to a safe and habitable living environment throughout your entire tenancy. The State Sanitary Code protects the health, safety and well-being of tenants and the general public. The local Boards of Health enforce the code. (Note: In Boston , it is the Housing Inspection Department.) Copies of the Code may be purchased from the State House Bookstore, State House, Room 116, Boston , MA 02133 (617)727-2834.
The following is a sampling of provisions outlined in the Code:
Water: The landlord must provide you with enough water, with adequate pressure, to meet your ordinary needs. You cannot be charged for water. If your tenancy agreement requires you to pay for water and sewer costs, that provision of your agreement is void and unenforceable.
The landlord also must provide the facilities to heat the water at a temperature between 110°F and 130°F; however your written tenancy agreement may require you to pay for and provide the fuel to heat the water.
Heat: The landlord must provide a heating system in good working order. The landlord must pay for the heat, unless your lease requires you to pay for it. From September 16 to June 14, every room must be heated to a least 68°F between 7:00 AM and 11:00 PM , and at least 64°F at all other hours. During the heating season, the maximum heat allowable in the apartment is 78°F.
Kitchens: The landlord must provide within the kitchen: a sink of sufficient size and capacity for washing dishes and kitchen utensils, a stove and oven in good repair (unless your written lease requires you to provide your own), and space and proper facilities for the installation of a refrigerator.
The landlord does not have to provide a refrigerator. If a refrigerator is provided, however, the landlord must keep it in working order.
Cockroaches and rodents: The landlord must maintain the unit free from rodents, cockroaches, and insect infestation, if there are two or more apartments in the building.
Structural Elements: Every landlord must maintain the foundation, floors, walls, doors, windows, ceilings, roof, staircases, porches, chimneys, and other structural elements of the dwelling so that it excludes wind, rain, and snow; is rodent-proof, weather tight, watertight, and free from chronic dampness; in good repair, and in every way fit for its intended use.
Snow Removal: Every exit used or intended for use by occupants of more than one dwelling unit or rooming unit shall be maintained free from obstruction.
Rent Withholding: The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that when a landlord fails to maintain a dwelling in habitable condition, a tenant may properly withhold a portion of the rent from the date the landlord has notice of this breach of warranty of habitability.
Rent withholding can be a useful tool to force repairs, but it is a serious step and should be dealt with carefully. You may want to get legal advice before withholding your rent since the landlord may try to evict you for non-payment of rent.
You may withhold a portion of your rent if:
- You have appealed to your landlord in writing to make the necessary repairs;
- Your local board of health has inspected your apartment and found health code violations and notified your landlord; and
- You are current in your rent up until the time of the problem, you are not the cause of the problem, and the unsanitary conditions do not require the apartment to be vacated to make repairs.
Deciding how much to withhold is based on each situation. You need only pay the fair rent for your unit given its defective condition.
Repair and Deduct: You may make emergency repairs in an apartment or common living area and deduct up to four months future rent to pay for them, if three conditions are met:
- The local board of health or other code enforcement agency has certified that the present conditions endanger your health or safety;
- The landlord receives written notice of the existing violations from the inspecting agency; and
- The landlord is given 5 days from the date of notice to begin repairs or to contract for outside services and 14 days to substantially complete all necessary repairs. (The inspecting agency or court may shorten this time frame.)
If you qualify under the requirements of “repair and deduct,” you may treat the lease as void. You then have the right to move out if you choose not to make repairs. However, you must pay the fair rental value for the period you occupied the apartment, and you must vacate within a reasonable period of time.
Shutoff Rights: The landlord cannot cause the removal of shutoff or the utilities except for a temporary period during repair or emergencies. In cases when a landlord’s account is about to be shut off for non-payment, the utility company must notify you 30 days before the scheduled termination.
You also may be asked to pay part of the overdue bill to the utility, and deduct that payment from your rent. Contact the Department of Telecommunications and Energy at 1-800-392-6066 for more information.
A landlord cannot lock you out or throw you out of your apartment without a judge’s order. If you are being evicted, Massachusetts law provides you with some protections. You may wish to consult with an attorney.
Terminating and Reviving your Tenancy:
Tenants with a Lease: Your landlord may attempt to evict you if you have not been paying your rent, or if you or people under your control have caused excessive damage to your apartment or you have violated the terms of your lease. Your landlord must first send you a “Notice to Quit” your tenancy.
If the landlord is terminating your tenancy for non-payment of rent, s/he must send you a “14 Day Notice to Quit.” Your lease will specify the notice requirement for other terminations; it is typically seven days.
If you are being evicted for non-payment of rent, you may avoid the eviction if you pay all rent owed, plus interest, and the landlord’s cost of filing an eviction case on or before the date your Answer is due.
Tenants at Will: Your landlord must send you a “14 Day Notice to Quit” if terminating your tenancy for non-payment of rent. If it is being terminated for any other reason, you must be given written notice 30 days, or one full rental period in advance, whichever is longer.
If you are being evicted for non-payment of rent, you may avoid the eviction by paying the rent due within 10 days of receiving this notice, as long as this is the first notice you have received within the last 12 months.
If there is no statement of your right to revive the tenancy in the Notice, you have until the date your Answer is due.
Landlords of public housing tenancy must go through the local housing authority then proceed with the eviction.
Summary Process and Complaint: After the notice period has passed, the landlord must deliver to you a “Summary Process and Complaint.” This officially informs you that the landlord is taking legal action against you. It will state the date of the eviction hearing and the date on which the Answer must be filed.
Answer: The Answer is a written response from you stating why you should not be evicted. It also gives you the chance to make counterclaims against your landlord, which may include health code violations, retaliation, harassment, security deposit violation, or improper eviction procedure. It must be received by the court and the landlord the Monday before your court date. Keep a copy for yourself.
Judgment and Appeal: The judgment is entered with the clerk of the court on the Friday after the trial. If you lose the case, you may appeal the decision and request a new hearing. If you appeal, you must file a Notice to Appeal within 10 days after the date the judgment is entered. An appeal bond is usually required, but may be waived if you cannot afford it; and you have a non-frivolous defense.
Execution: The execution is the judge’s eviction order; the landlord cannot physically evict you without this paper. If a physical eviction is to be allowed, the court will give the landlord the execution 10 days after the judgment is entered. You must receive written notice of the date and time the physical eviction will be take place at least 48 hours in advance. On the date set in the 48 hour notice, you must leave your apartment.
The landlord may use the execution anytime within a 3 month period. However, if you were evicted for non-payment of rent, and the landlord accepts payment of the entire amount won in the summary process action and your current rent, then the landlord cannot use the execution at any point and must return it to the court.
The Stay of Execution: If the eviction was not your fault or you cannot in good faith find a place to live, you may be able to convince a judge to grant you a Stay of Execution, allowing you to stay in your apartment for up to six months. Elderly or disabled tenants can request a stay of up to one year.
If you are being evicted for non-payment of rent, you do not have any legal basis to request a stay. However, if your damages (which may arise from counterclaims filed against the landlord) are less than the amount owed to the landlord (e.g. back rent), you have 7 days to avoid eviction by paying the balance, with interest, and court costs.
Eviction: When the date written on the execution order arrives, you must move out. If you do not, a sheriff or constable may remove your belongings and place them in storage, unless you give permission to have them put on the street. If your belongings are put in storage, the mover should make a descriptive list of all stored items. Your former landlord has the right to sue to recover these eviction costs. The storage company will have a lien on your belongings, which can be enforced by selling the goods. The storage company, however, cannot sell your belongings without waiting 6 months. You are not required to pay back rent to get your furniture out of storage. But, you still owe the amount the court finds due, until you pay it for 20 years hence.
Before you move out, you should consider scheduling an appointment with the landlord for an inspection of your apartment. This may help prevent future disputes with your landlord about apartment damage. Review the Statement of Condition form if you gave the landlord a security deposit. On the day you leave, be sure to clean the apartment. You also may want to take and date pictures of the condition of your apartment at the moment you move out. These photographs may help resolve security deposit disputes. If you paid the landlord a security deposit or last month’s rent, leave the landlord your forwarding address so s/he can mail you any interest you are owed.
Chapter 90, Motor Vehicles and Aircraft
Mass. G.L. c.90, sec 24
“Section 24. (1) (a) (1) Whoever, upon any way or in any place to which the public has a right of access, or upon any way or in any place to which members of the public have access as invitees or licensees, operates a motor vehicle with a percentage, by weight, of alcohol in their blood of eight one-hundredths or greater, or while under the influence of intoxication liquor, or of marijuana, narcotic drugs, depressants or stimulant substances, all as defined in section one of chapter ninety-four C, or the vapors of glue shall be punished by a fine of not less than five hundred nor more than five thousand dollars or by imprisonment for not more than two and one-half years, or both such fine and imprisonment.”
BREAKING AND ENTERING
Chapter 266, Crimes against Property
Mass. G.L. c. 266, sec 17
“Section 17. Whoever, in the night time, enters without breaking, or breaks and enters in the daytime, a building, ship, vessel, or vehicle, with intent to commit a felony, the owner of any other person lawfully therein being put in fear, shall be punished by imprisonment in the sate prison for not more than ten years.
Whoever commits any offense described in this section while armed with a firearm, rifle, shotgun, machine gun or assault weapon shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not less than five years or in the house of correction for not more that two and one-half years.
Chapter 266, Crimes against Property
Mass. G.L. c. 266, sec 30
“Section 30. (1) Whoever steals, or with intent to defraud obtains by a false pretence, or whoever unlawfully, and with intent to steal or embezzle, converts, or secretes with intent to convert, the property of another as defined in this section, whether such property is or is not in his possession at the time of such conversion secreting, shall be guilty of larceny, and shall, if the property stolen is a firearm, as defined in section one hundred and twenty-one of chapter one hundred and forty, or, if the value of the property stolen exceeds two hundred and fifty dollars, be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than five years, or by a fine of not more than twenty-five thousand dollar and imprisonment in jail for not more than two years.
If the value of the property stolen, other than a firearm as so defined, does not exceed two hundred and fifty dollars, shall be punished by imprisonment in jail for not more than one year or by a fine of not more than three hundred dollars; or if the property was stolen from the conveyance of a common carrier or of a person carrying on an express business, shall be punished for the first offence by imprisonment for not less than six months nor more than two and one half years, or by a fine of not less than fifty nor more than six hundred dollars, or both, and for a subsequent offence, by imprisonment for not less than eighteen months nor more than two and one half years, or by a fine of not less than one hundred and fifty nor more than six hundred dollars, or both.”
ASSAULT AND/OR BATTERY
Mass. G.L. c 265, sec 13A
“Section 13A. (a) Whoever commits an assault or an assault and battery upon another shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than two and one half years in a house of correction or by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars.
A summons may be issued instead of a warrant for the arrest of any person upon a complaint for a violation of any provision of this subsection if in the judgment of the court or justice receiving the complaint there is reason to believe that he will appear upon a summons.
The Immediate relatives of U.S citizens are not counted under the Family-Sponsored preference category. The immediate family members include spouses, children, and parents.
The law establishes four preferences for persons who are eligible for permanent immigrant visas to the U.S. based upon family relationships. The total numbers of visas under this category is 480,000 visas.
Unmarried sons and daughter of U.S. Citizens
The first preference comprises persons who are the unmarried sons and daughter of U.S. Citizens. This preference is allotted 23,000 visas annually and includes adult, divorced sons and daughters of U.S. Citizens.
Spouse and unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent resident aliens
This preference is allotted a minimum total of 114,200. If a permanent resident alien of the U.S. marries a foreign person, the U.S. residents’ foreign spouse does not receive permanent resident status until his or her priority date is current.
Married sons and daughters of United States Citizens
This preference provides for a total of 23,400 visas, plus any visas that have not been used by the first two family-sponsored preference groups.
Brothers and sisters of United States citizens
The fourth preference provides for a total of 65,000 visas or twenty-four percent of the worldwide annual quota plus any visas that have not been utilized by the first three family-sponsored preference groups and benefits qualified persons who are the siblings of United States Citizens.
Family of Refugees & Asylees
- Child (unmarried and under 21 when you first applied for asylum or refugee status)
- As the Petitioner, you must be a principal refugee or asylee. This means that you were granted refugee or asylee status directly and did not obtain it through a relative.
- You entered the United States as a refugee within the past two years or were granted asylum within the past two years.
- You remain in refugee or asylee status or have become a permanent resident
- The family relationship to exist before you came to the United States as a refugee or were granted asylum.
Six Criminal Grounds of Inadmissibility
- Conviction or admission of a crime of moral turpitude or a crime involving a drug offense. This designation refers to those crimes that are indicative of bad moral character, such as crimes of theft, assault and battery, murder, rape and the like.
- Conviction of two or more crimes if the combined custodial sentence imposed is for five years or longer regardless of whether or not the crime arose form a single stream of events or whether or not the crimes were of moral turpitude.
- When the consular or immigration officer knows or has reason to believe that the alien is or was a drug trafficker or was a person who aided, abetted, or conspired in drug trafficking.
- Any alien who was involved in prostitution or is coming to the United States to engage in any other unlawful commercialized vice.
- Aliens involved in serious criminal activity who have asserted immunity from prosecution and departed.
- Aliens who have been convicted of aggravated felonies as that term is defined by law.
Sponsor’s Financial Requirements
The sponsor must have net assets 125% over the poverty line. A person holding a green card cannot apply for government welfare for five years after getting their green card. The Sponsor will have to fill out a Form I-864 Affidavit of Support with their package.
Two Year Testing Period For New Marriages
You must be married for two years to obtain a permanent green card. If you apply soon then you will receive a conditional card, good for two years.
Documents needed to receive a green card
Form I -130
Documents to accompany Form I-130
- Your marriage certificate
- Proof of the U.S. Citizen status of your petition spouse, such as birth certificate, passport, certificate of naturalization
- Proof of termination of all previous marriages
- One color photo of you
- One color photo of your spouse
Form G-325A for the Immigrant
Form G-325A for the U.S Citizen
10 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q1: What are some factors that are considered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in granting an individual immigration status?
A: Factors considered b y the USCIS include:
- Whether the applicant has an immediate relative who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident;
- Whether the applicant has a permanent employment opportunity in the U.S., and whether that employment fits under one of the five eligible employment categories;
- Whether the applicant is making a capital investment in the U.S. that meets certain dollar thresholds, and that either creates or saves a specified number of jobs; and
- Whether the applicant qualifies for refugee status as an individual who suffers or fears persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality, political view, or membership in a certain group in his or her country of origin.
Q2: What is the purpose of the Diversity (DV) Lottery Program?
A: The purpose of the DV Lottery Program is to annually award immigrant visas to applicants whose country of origin has low immigration rates to the U.S. (not more than 50,000 in the last five years). The program is called a lottery because there are more applicants than available visas, and the visas are granted randomly among qualified applicants.
Q3: What is the basis for being deported? What are the consequences of deportation?
A: Deportation (or removal) occurs when an alien is found to have violated certain immigration or criminal laws, consequences being that the alien forfeits his or her right to remain in the U.S., and is usually barred from returning.
Q4: How is the deportation process initiated?
A: The Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement issues a Notice to Appear (NTA) stating the reason why the alien should be deported or removed. The NTA is served to the alien and is filed with the immigration court. A hearing is scheduled, at which an immigration judge will determine if the information in the NTA is correct. If it is, removal of the alien will be ordered.
Q5: Can a deportation or removal order be appealed?
A: Yes. The alien has 30 days to appeal the decision to the Board of Immigration (BIA). If the BIA decides against the alien, the matter can be appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals. Finally, if the Court of Appeals also finds against the alien, the matter can be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Q6: Under what circumstance will a foreign spouse’s permanent resident status in the U.S. be conditional?
A: A spouse’s permanent resident status will be conditional if it is based on a marriage that was less than two years old from the day the permanent resident status was granted. To remove the conditions, the spouse must establish that the purpose of the marriage was not to evade the U.S. immigration laws.
Q7: Under what circumstance will a foreign fiancé (e), who has been admitted into the U.S. for the purpose of getting married, be required to leave the U.S.
A: If the marriage to the U.S. citizen who filed the petition to permit the fiancé(e) into the U.S. does not take place within 90 days of entering the U.S., the fiancé(e) will be required to leave the country.
Q8: Can a U.S citizen file an application to adopt a foreign-born child before the citizen has identified a child to adopt?
A: Yes. A married U.S. citizen, or an unmarried citizen who is at least 24 years of age and will be at least 25 when the petition is actually filed, may file a Form I-600A Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition, to speed up the adoption process.
Q9: What is the basic law that governs immigration?
A: The federal Immigration and Nationality Act provides the basis for U.S. immigration law.
Q10: Can a fee for immigration related services be waived?
A: Yes. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) bureau has discretion to waive a filing fee if the applicant can establish that he or she is unable to pay. In order to have the USCIS consider waiving a fee, the applicant must follow specific instructions, including completion of a form for review by the USCIS.
“My unique competitive advantage is in the results and solutions I provide to my clients. I have tried over 14 cases in the last 3 years and resolved over 100 cases thus far. I understand your urgency; I am available on my cell day and night, weekdays and weekends. If you leave me a message, I will return your call within minutes.”
“I am results and solutions driven, that is my value and benefit and what sets me apart from the rest. For anyone with an overstayed visa, I will get you your green card in approximately 6 months or less, if you are marrying a spouse overseas, I will get you your green card in approximately one year.”
My Declaration of Commitment to Clients
- To treat you with respect and courtesy.
- To handle your legal matters competently and diligently, in accordance with the highest standard of the profession.
- To exercise independent professional judgment on your behalf.
- To charge a reasonable fee and to explain in advance how that fee will be computed and billed.
- To return telephone calls promptly.
- To keep you informed and provide you with copies of important papers.
- To respect your decisions on the objectives to be pursued in your case, as permitted by the law, and the rules of professional conduct, including whether or not to settle your case.
- To preserve the client confidences learned during our lawyer-client relationship.
- To exhibit the highest degree of ethical conduct in accordance with the Code of Professional Responsibility/ Model Rules of Professional Conduct.