MAR Legal Hotline Notes - January 2018
Wednesday, January 3, 2018
Posted by: Karen DeDonato
Notes from MAR Legal Hotline
Can I charge a “pet fee” to my tenants?
No, you cannot charge tenants an additional fee for having a pet. Massachusetts General Laws Ch. 186, Sec. 15B states that a landlord is only permitted to collect first month’s rent, a security deposit equal to one month’s rent, last month’s rent, and a lock change fee. Additional fees, such as pet fees and smoker’s fees are not allowable even if a tenant agrees to the charge. If a landlord allows pets and the pets cause damage to the unit beyond reasonable wear and tear, the landlord may use the security deposit to make repairs so long as the landlord has complied with all applicable security deposit laws. It is not illegal for a landlord to refuse to rent to a prospective tenant that has a pet unless that pet is a service animal needed for a disability.
Even if a landlord has a no pets policy, they must make an accommodation for a tenant with a disability who has the need for a service animal. A landlord may require a tenant with a service animal to comply with certain rules, such as keeping the animal on a leash and cleaning up after it; however, a landlord cannot require that tenant to pay any additional fees associated with having the service animal. Placing additional burdens on a tenant who needs a service animal due to a disability is contrary to Massachusetts law and the Americans With Disabilities Act.
What laws regulate Real Estate Teams in Massachusetts?
Although a handful of states have implemented specific laws and regulations governing real estate teams, Massachusetts does not have any team-specific laws or regulations. Although Massachusetts has not codified any new laws or regulations regarding teams, there several regulations that are of particular importance to teams.
When working in a team it may be easy to run afoul of these rules:
1) Real estate salespersons must be associated with a broker (254 CMR 3.00);
2) Real estate commission fees may only be paid to a broker (254 CMR 3.00);
3) Salespersons are prohibited from advertising in their own name and all advertisements must include the name of the broker (254 CMR 3.00);
4) REALTORS® shall be honest and truthful in their real estate communications and shall present a true picture in their advertising, marketing, and other representations. REALTORS® shall ensure that their status as real estate professionals is readily apparent in their advertising, marketing, and other representations, and that the recipients of all real estate communications are, or have been, notified that those communications are from a real estate professional. (REALTOR® Code of Ethics, Art. 12);
5) The name of the REALTOR® firm must be disclosed in a reasonable and readily apparent manner in all advertisements (REALTOR® Code of Ethics, Standard of Practice 12-5);
6) Salespersons are prohibited from holding client funds (254 CMR 3.00).
If running a team, remember one key thing: You are not a brokerage, so do not hold yourself out as one. Failure to adhere to these rules and regulations could result in an investigation by the Board of Registration, an ethics complaint, or even a 93A lawsuit from a deceived client.
For more information regarding these topics authorized callers should contact the MAR legal hotline at 800-370-5342 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® Legal Staff
Michael McDonagh, MAR General Counsel
Justin Davidson, MAR Legislative & Regulatory Counsel
Catherine Taylor, Staff Attorney