Massachusetts heavily regulates security deposits for residential tenancies. The law covers nearly every aspect of the acceptance, holding, and return of a security deposit.
Security deposit violations can occur in many ways. The penalties for not complying with this law can result in a tenant being entitled to the immediate return of their deposit or, in severe cases, treble damages, costs, and attorney fees against the landlord. Here are some common security deposit violations.
Please note that this list is not all of the security deposit requirements; one should always consult the law (or a landlord-tenant lawyer) to ensure compliance with this detailed law.
A landlord must give the tenant a receipt indicating, among other things, the amount collected for a security deposit and the name of the person receiving it. This receipt must include the date on which the deposit is received and a description of the rented premises. The landlord (or the landlord’s agent) must sign this receipt.
Separate Bank Account
The landlord must put this security deposit into a separate bank account, located in Massachusetts. Within thirty days of depositing these funds, the landlord must provide the tenant with name and location of this bank and the bank account number.
Timely Return of the Security Deposit
Most security deposit violations occur during the process of returning the security deposit. A landlord may only keep a portion of a security deposit for 1) unpaid rent or water charges 2) unpaid increase in real estate taxes which the tenant is obligated to pay (rare for most residential tenancies) or 3) a reasonable amount necessary to repair any damage to the rental unit, reasonable wear and tear excluded.
Any portion of the security deposit that the landlord is not entitled to keep must be returned to the tenant within thirty days after the end of the tenancy. Failure to do so is one of the most severe violations of the security deposit law, and will likely subject a landlord to the maximum penalties available under the law.
If you need assistance with a security deposit matter, contact me for a consultation.