Security Deposit Disputes

Landlords often require tenants to provide a security deposit in order to secure a rental property. The security deposit is the tenant’s money that is held in escrow and which can be used by the landlord to cover costs of repairing damages beyond wear and tear caused by the tenant to the rental property.

Massachusetts has very strict laws governing security deposits. Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 186, Section 15B and 940 CMR 3.17 govern security deposits in residential landlord tenant relationships.

The process and procedure that must be followed by a landlord when accepting a security deposit are confusing and difficult to understand. However, a failure to comply with the rule can have severe consequences. Tenants are permitted to file lawsuits against their landlords for failing to follow the security deposit laws, and landlords can be required to immediately return the security deposit law or even pay the tenant three times the amount of the original security deposit along with attorney’s fee and interest. It is best to consult an experienced security deposit lawyer for advice whenever deciding to accept a security deposit.

Overview of Security Deposit Procedure

Massachusetts residential landlords are not permitted to request a security deposit that is more than one month’s rent. When taking a security deposit, landlords are also required to provide a written receipt evidencing that the security deposit was provided to the landlord by the tenant. Landlords must also provide the tenant with the bank account number for the account where the security deposit is being held, as well as the name an address of the bank.

Landlords must always remember that the security deposit remains the property of the tenant and that courts will treat it as such. Security deposits must be kept in a separate, interest-bearing account.

Within 30 days of the tenant moving out of the rental property, the landlord must return the deposit, plus interest. The landlord is permitted to deduct from the security deposit for any damage caused by the tenant that is beyond normal wear and tear. However, the landlord must provide an itemized list of the damage to the property, along with the amount deducted from the security deposit for such damage. Consult a Security Deposit Attorney

The Massachusetts laws concerning security deposits are challenging and difficult to understand on your own. If you are a landlord with questions about the proper handling of security deposits, you should consult with Garrett D. Lee of Mitcheson & Lee LLP. If a tenant has sued you or is threatening to sue you for mishandling the security deposit, please call Garrett D. Lee of Mitcheson & Lee LLP at 617-933-3880.

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