Slavin v. Rent Control Bd.

406 Mass. 458, 548 N.E.2d 1226 (1990)

 

RULE:

The question, of whether a tenant's obligation, as specified in a residential lease, to obtain the written consent of a landlord before assigning the lease, or subletting, or permitting other occupants implies as a matter of law an obligation on the landlord's part to act reasonably in withholding consent, is one of public policy which, of course, the legislature is free to address.

FACTS:

Plaintiff landlord sought to evict a tenant for violating an obligation of his tenancy. Defendant rent control board found that the tenant had allowed another person to occupy his apartment without first obtaining plaintiff's written consent. Nonetheless, defendant refused to issue the eviction certificate, observing that plaintiff had not acted reasonably in categorically refusing to allow the tenant to bring in someone new after his original co-tenant moved out. Plaintiff obtained judicial review, and the trial court annulled defendant's decision and ordered the certificate's issuance. The appellate court affirmed and awarded plaintiff double costs and attorney fees, finding defendant exceeded its authority by making determinations of law. On defendant’s appeal, the state supreme court reversed the order in part.

ISSUE:

Did the tenant's obligation to obtain plaintiff landlord’s written consent before assigning the lease or subletting or permitting other occupants imply an obligation on plaintiff's part to act reasonably in withholding consent?

ANSWER:

No.

CONCLUSION:

Plaintiff landlord was not statutorily obligated to act reasonably in considering a tenant's request to assign or sublease. Therefore, defendant rent control board had to issue a certificate of eviction. However, defendant did not have to pay double costs and attorney fees because its litigation was not frivolous.

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