Belmont, MA asked in Contracts, Criminal Law and Real Estate Law for Massachusetts

Q: As tenants do we have a legal claim to use of common space? How do we address harassment by neighbors who won't share?

My husband and I moved into an apartment in an upstairs/downstairs duplex last year. The upstairs tenants had been living there for several years before we moved in. In our leases each apartment has rights to two parking spots in the shared driveway, but the neighbors have taken three, making our parking situation very tight. They also informed us that all of the garden space is theirs. Last summer we didn't push back because we were out of town in the summer. This year, though, we told them that we wanted a more fair split, and we planted in the plot under our windows. They still have use of 80% of the garden space. Our landlords have confirmed that we do have the right to garden where we have. These neighbors have been bothering my husband when they see him outside, telling him that he is exercising white privilege by taking "their" land. They also posted a picture of us gardening on social media, calling us racists and discussing what they should do to us.

1 Lawyer Answer
Lissa McKinney
Lissa McKinney
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Acton, MA
  • Licensed in Massachusetts

A: You should send a polite email to the landlord asserting that your lease provides you 2 parking spots and they have taken one of yours. He needs to tell them they have only 2 and to move the 3rd car someplace else. He should also tell them in writing that you are entitled to half the garden and they need to pull back their garden to half or stop complaining. You are entitled to "quiet enjoyment" of the common areas and all the benefits of your lease. The landlord needs to enforce your lease provisions, but my guess is they will terrorize him too and he could be afraid of them. You may end up with an action against your landlord and these tenants too if your rights are not protected. Keep careful records and screen shot and document what they are doing for harassment. At some point if they threaten or frighten you enough you may be able to get a Harassmaent Order against them. Take pictures of the cars there too, the garden, and anything they do as intimidation. By the way, all your rights can be found in a great tenants book called Legal Tactics, written by MA tenants organizations for over 30 years in lay terms, for tenants rights. As tenants, it is well worth having. You may want to think about moving as you do have cause to break your lease if the landlord does nothing. On the other hand, you could think about a threat of legal action to them as well, or have a lawyer write them a letter telling them to take down the post or be sued for invasion of your privacy and slander for portrayal in a false light, and there is possibly a civil rights issue for you there too. This is just informational, and those are areas outside of the question you ask. It is an awful situation to be sure. I wonder if that is why the prior tenants left?

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