Landlord has 30 days to give you a copy of the lease.
This is a pretty great intro to LL-Tenant law in Massachusetts. If you're there with the permission of the named tenant you aren't a squatter. If the LL has known you were living there all the better. But you are a tenant with rights regardless.
You should see if you can find the lease, even though you aren't a signatory it will still govern a lot of your interactions with the LL. If it's a term lease your options may be different than if you're already month to month.
The LL must follow the process for an eviction. He can't just kick you out. He can't legally just change the locks. He can't legally shut off utilities for which he pays the bill to try and force you out.
Step one is for him to send you a notice to quit. If this is the first time in the last 12 months that the rent has been late it should have a cure amount on it. This tells you how much you have to pay and by when in order to avoid him filing in court. If you don't want to contact him before this point, when you receive the NTQ is when you reach out to him, explain the situation, and offer some kind of payment plan or other solution. If he agrees, get the plan in writing, both of you sign it (preferably in front of a notary), and make sure the written agreement contains his agreement not to file a complaint against you unless you fail to comply with the agreement.
As I mentioned, the NTQ will have a pay or quit date. In MA he has to give you at least a 14 day NTQ for nonpayment. At the end of those 14 days he can file a summary process action against you. He must serve you with a copy of the summons and the complaint. This will have a court date on it. The summons and complaint should have information on how to file an Answer. If there are any bad conditions in the property, if the NTQ isn't served properly or doesn't have the correct info, etc. include this in you Answer for leverage. You can also ask for Discovery when you file your Answer. If you can't find a copy of the lease you could request it here. Most Courts in MA have housing specialists you can talk to. Call the civil clerk's office where the case is filed and ask if they have housing specialists or other resources available.
I cannot stress this next part enough... GO TO THE COURT DATE. If your court has mediators available, go to mediation. It can't hurt you. Might help. If no deal is reached in mediation, you go before the judge for your bench trial (yes on the very first court date). Explain about your mother. Tell him/her your plan for getting current on the rent. You can request that the judge order a payment plan, it will be up to him/her as to whether or not they want to help in this regard. If the judge agrees that the LL should get possession (essentially that the LL can make you leave) ask for a 30 or 60 day stay so that you can find another place. The judge can use his/her discretion to grant you up to a 6 month stay of the actual lock out. Your mother's disability might qualify her for a stay of up to a year.
It may also be that your mother isn't competent to be sued. I would also ask the clerks how you might get the court to appoint a guardian ad litem to represent your mother's interests.
MA is lots stricter about security deposits than most states. There has to be a signed document stating the condition of the apartment made when the lease starts and then there has to be actual damages documented and remedied (and generally include receipts) to withhold any of the security deposit. Failure on any of these accounts means that the security deposit can't be withheld and failure to properly return all or part of the security deposit can result in treble damages. Read through MA's tenant rights and responsibilities booklet for easy to read descriptions of the rules.
Its something that could easily lead to water damage to the vanity if the crack gets a lot worse. Also lots of states require landlords to maintain good and safe working plumbing, and not repairing this would seem to be failing to maintain said safe,working plumbing due to the risk of easily causing water damage. I'd also take pics/video to have a record that you didn't cause that damage in case he says you did.
You could also go the route of politely asking if you could schedule the plumber to come out and pay for it (as you suggested) and deduct it from your rent. Reading the MA tenat rights PDF I found this tidbit as looks like you could use:
Again just my opinion but having a sink that you can't use in the bathroom, or not fixing the ringer to buzz people in seems like he isn't meeting his duties as a landlord. Good luck with whatever you decide to do.
Same rules apply to the last month deposit in Mass regarding the separate bank account and 5% interest:
The previous tenant / the landlord are responsible IF you signed and submitted a move-in inspection form OR you can provide proof of correspondence that the landlord knew the oven was a mess before the fire.
I would cut off communication asap and lawyer up regardless.
You are afraid you'll die in a fire and the apartment is unsafe.
Who know what else is wrong with the place.
Read up on your Boston/MA tenant rights & responsibilities here:
IANAL but there are probably enough damages here to make talking to a lawyer, especially if you have access to any legal aid services. Triple if the landlord tries to withhold the security deposit, or does not return it within the correct amount of time.
Did a little more research,
Tenant Rights and Responsibilities
MINIMUM STANDARDS OF FITNESS FOR HUMAN HABITATION (STATE SANITARY CODE, CHAPTER II)
From the STATE SANITARY CODE, CHAPTER II
"410.750: Conditions Deemed to Endanger or Impair Health or Safety
...(P) Any other violation of 105 CMR 410.000 not enumerated in 105 CMR 410.750(A) through (O) shall be deemed to be a condition which may endanger or materially impair the health or safety and well-being of an occupant upon the failure of the owner to remedy said condition within the time so ordered by the board of health."
While section 410.750 does not specifically list mold/mildew/fungi as an endangering factor, section (P) does leave the possibility open for evaluation. If you sister does have documented illnesses (asthma, pneumonia) you may be able to get the Board of Health to side with you.
The next time mold/mildew/fungi spores appear on the ceiling tile,
you may contact the Board of Health and request an inspection of the unit for any violations (Section 410.820 of the State Sanitary Code). With the improper finish material, your sisters health problems and the presence of mold, you might just win.
I recommend reviewing the (2) referenced documents and contacting a housing attorney with any questions you may have as to your legal rights. i would also recommend investing in a mold test kit to verify the presence of mold/mildew/fungi, these can usually be found at your local hardware store.
Please be aware that mold is a serious health concern and should only be removed by a certified mold mitigation specialist and should not be handled by you or your sister.
According to Boston's Tenants Rights, your landlord has certain requirements for a written agreement. However, if you are a Tenant at Will (page 4), no written agreement is necessary, only verbal:
"The agreement for the Tenancy at Will may be either written or verbal."
"The agreement for the Tenancy at Will may be either written or verbal."
please keep in mind, I am not a lawyer, I am only hoping to point you in the right direction.
If your sister has a 12 month lease, or longer, then the LL cannot raise her rent during the lease. However, your sister is likely a tenant at will, and therefore the Landlord could raise rent 12 times a year if they wanted.
The landlord must give 30 days notice ahead of any rent increase.
Here is a great resource for more information.