MAR July 2022

Q.        I have a tenant who is offering to pay 6 months of rent upfront – is that allowed?

A.        No. For tenancies greater than 100 days in duration, the provisions of the Security Deposit statute apply. The statute prohibits a lessor from requiring a tenant to pay any amount in excess of:

  1. First month’s rent
  2. Last month’s rent calculated at the same rate as the first month’s rent
  3. Security deposit equal to the first month’s rent
  4. The purchase and installation cost for a new lock and key.

On occasion, a prospective tenant may offer to pay rent in advance. Even if the subject of prepaid rent originates from the prospective tenant, rather than the landlord making a demand, this is likely still a violation of the statute. Generally, this type of offer is made by prospective tenants who are unlikely to have their application approved by the landlord. Although the landlord may not be making the request for prepaid rent, the end result is the same – amounts being paid that exceed the parameters of the statute in order to secure housing. Courts are also unlikely to view such an agreement favorably as it would restrict a tenant’s ability to withhold rent in the event that the landlord violates the lease.

Q.        What are the new guidelines regarding square footage in appraisals?

A.        Beginning on April 1, 2022, Fannie Mae began requiring that the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) home measurement standard for appraisals be used for single family homes. At this time, the standard has only been adopted by Fannie Mae, but agents should be aware of this measurement standard as it may lead to discrepancies in the square footage displayed in public record and on the appraisal for certain properties. Additionally, being aware of how this may impact certain properties should be taken into account when preparing CMAs.

The key elements of the ANSI Standard can be read here. Of particular note for properties in Massachusetts is the requirement of a 7-foot minimum ceiling height, and for properties with sloped roofs, the living area only counts from a height of 5 feet and at least 50% of the ceiling has to be at least 7 feet. Many older properties, and Cape Cod style homes, may see a reduction in the living space as accounted for in the appraisal. While areas not satisfying the standard are not entirely discounted, they do not count towards the above grade living space and may impact the property’s appraised value.

As a REALTOR® it is important to know which transactions may be affected by this so that you may educate your clients and be prepared to address any challenges that may arise. A helpful FAQ from Fannie Mae on this topic can be found here.

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Written by: Justin Davidson, General Counsel; Catherine Taylor, Associate Counsel; and Jonathan Schreiber, Legislative & Regulatory Counsel.

Services provided through the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice, nor does it establish an attorney-client relationship. The Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®, by providing this service, assumes no actual or implied responsibility for any improper use of responses to questions through this service.  The Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® will not be legally responsible for any potential misrepresentations or errors made by providing this service. For more information regarding these topics authorized callers should contact the MAR legal hotline at 800-370-5342 or e-mail at legalhotline@marealtor.com.