Massachusetts Commercial Tenants Do Have Rights When Commercial Landlord Does Wrong

Commercial landlords in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts have many fewer responsibilities than their residential counterparts. These commercial landlords enjoy an increased bargaining power due to the very limited space zoned for business. They do not face the same implied warranties and regulations as those renting in a residential setting. The commercial tenant in the Commonwealth must be adept in its own knowledge of the law to negotiate a commercial lease with terms that permit it to conduct business as it intends. Failure to negotiate the terms of the lease can sometimes be fatal to an unwitting commercial tenant that runs into an unintended contractual obligation.

Still, the Massachusetts commercial tenant is not without rights where the landlord does not hold up its end of the contract, like failing to meet basic obligations under government regulations for fire suppression systems or other responsibilities not shifted to the tenant under the contract. Some commercial tenants will have a triple net lease that places all of the burden on the tenant, yet the landlord still retains responsibilities under even that common style of one-way, draconian commercial land lease contract. The Massachusetts commercial landlord is further subject to the Consumer Protection Statute under section 11 of M.G.L. c.93A, allowing another lever for the tenant to pull where the landlord decides to engage in unfair and deceptive acts and practices or methods of competition. The CPA can be very effective in recovering from even the most unscrupulous businesspeople, where the threat of double or treble damages for failure to tender a reasonable settlement offer looms large.

Although the Massachusetts commercial tenant does not enjoy the protection of an implied warranty of habitability, per se incorporating the state sanitary code, it does enjoy the right to enjoy its tenancy free from serious interference. For example, if the commercial landlord does not provide a weathertight roof after notice, resulting in commercial tenant’s loss of computers, printers, hardware, and information stored therein – the commercial tenant would have grounds to sue for injunctive relief to rescind the contract and seek compensation from the landlord. The commercial tenant still enjoys but few protections in any type of commercial eviction case, especially for non-payment of rent, but there are defenses that may successfully bar the commercial landlord’s attempt to recover possession of the property from the tenant in court.

-MJS

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