Step #1: Determine if Your Landlord Improperly Collected Your Security Deposit.
First, determine when you gave the security deposit to your landlord. Massachusetts Law requires any landlord who collects a security deposit to give several things to a tenant within 30 DAYS of receiving it. 1. A receipt for the deposit 2. Statement of Conditions of the Apartment 3. Information about the bank account where the security deposit is deposited (including account number and specific bank). If your landlord has not given you any of the three items listed above, she owes you your security deposit.
Step #2: Ask For Your Security Deposit Back.
Most landlords are reasonable people. Simply asking for it back may save you the time and effort as the landlord may give it back to you on the spot.
Step #3: Send a Letter Demanding Your Security Deposit Money Back.
This step may be completed with or without a lawyer. Unless when you ask for the deposit back, your landlord immediately returns it, send a letter. Even if she agrees to return the deposit, if she later decides she does not want to return, your demand is in writing. A very handy sample demand letter may be found here: http://www.masslegalhelp.org/housing/legaltactics1/security-deposit-demand-letter.pdf If you chose to draft your own letter, here is what to include: 1. Ask for your deposit back in writing 2. State the reasons why you are asking for the security deposit back (i.e. if you never received a statement of conditions) *See above* 3. Give a deadline for the return (30 days). 4. Mention Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 186, Section 15B, and Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 93A. 4. Send the letter via certified mail and standard mail. By sending the letter both by certified mail, you ensure that your landlord receives it.
Step #4: Use the Court System to Your Advantage
If your landlord still refuses to return your deposit, file a claim against your landlord. Here is the point where a lawyer will be helpful. While you can file a claim and go forward yourself, an attorney can help to limit costly legal mistakes. If you choose to file on your own, your claim may be filed in Housing Court, Civil Court, or Small Claims Court. Go to the Clerk's Office in the District Court or Housing Court where your apartment is located. The Clerk's office often has easy to understand forms, and can be helpful when you represent yourself.