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Can I sue my landlord for bad faith and get treble damages?

Chelsea, MA |

I vacated my apartment on 1/31/13. I then asked my landlord on 2/28/13 about my security, he assured me that it was in the mail. On 3/14/13 we speak again and he says its still in the mail. On 3/18/13 he calls and says he kept the deposit for damages done to the apartment. He also has an itemized list dated 2/28/13 of estimated costs for damages, but told me the check was in the mail as of March. Can I sue for misleading me?

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Attorney answers 3

Posted

If the damages calculation is inaccurate or the interest earned on your security deposit during your tenancy was unaccounted for, then you may have a cause of action under the landlord-tenant laws and may be able to collect multiple damages. In that case, you would want to contact a landlord-tenant attorney to assist you. If the landlord intentionally misrepresented to you the status of the security deposit and that it would be returned to you in full in hopes that you might forget about it, then that may also be actionable. On the other hand, the landlord may have made a mistake about which tenant you were and what your security deposit return amount would be. You should probably consult an attorney if you feel the landlord may have done something he was not supposed to do with respect to your security deposit. Best of luck.

Please be sure to mark if you find the answer "helpful" or a "best" answer. (It lets us know how we are doing.) Attorney Kremer is licensed to practice in Massachusetts. Please visit her Avvo profile for contact information. In accordance with Avvo guidelines, the following disclaimer applies to all responses given in this forum: The above is NOT legal advice, and is NOT intended to be legal advice. No Attorney-Client relationship is created through the above answer.

Asker

Posted

Doesn't my landlord have 30 days to return my deposit or send an itemized list of the damages and estimates?

Emma A. Kremer

Emma A. Kremer

Posted

Yes. Your security deposit plus interest earned during the tenancy must be returned within 30 days unless the damages exceed the security deposit amount.

Asker

Posted

What about the estimates, does that have a deadline? He never sent me anything.

Emma A. Kremer

Emma A. Kremer

Posted

What estimate? The damages and what your landlord deducted from your security deposit? I'm not entirely sure but the law is stricter with respect to wrongfully retaining your security deposit past the 30 days, but then again, maybe that is why he said the damages were equal to or more than the deposit. It's hard to say. If you think you have a case, bring it to an attorney.

Emma A. Kremer

Emma A. Kremer

Posted

From your comments to another attorney's answer, if you were offered half the deposit back and because you declined the landlord decided to keep your entire deposit, then that could very well violate the statute regulating security deposits.

Asker

Posted

After keeping all the deposit we spoke and he said he would try to work something out. that's when he offered less than half back. I declined because I felt I was entitled to more. I feel that the estimates for damages were inflated.

Emma A. Kremer

Emma A. Kremer

Posted

So did this happen within 30 days of the end of your tenancy or after? Either way it does not seem like this is right and you should probably consult a landlord tenant attorney at this point.

Asker

Posted

it happened after 30 days. I moved out on 1.31.13 and he made that offer on 3/20/13

Emma A. Kremer

Emma A. Kremer

Posted

Then your landlord may very well have violated the law. As I said earlier, you should probably consult a landlord tenant attorney at this point. I wish you the best of luck.

Asker

Posted

thank you very much!

Emma A. Kremer

Emma A. Kremer

Posted

You are very welcome!

Posted

Security deposits are governed by MGL c.186 § 15b. If he has violated the statute then you may well have a claim for treble damages for withholding it unfairly. However, if there was simply a clerical error, such as mistaking you for another tenant, then all the landlord has to do to remedy the situation is return your deposit.

www.levinepirolaw.com

Kyle Piro is a licensed attorney in Massachusetts. All answers are based on Massachusetts law and should not be construed as legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is formed by Attorney Piro answering your question. It is advisable to consult with an attorney about your personal legal concerns.

Asker

Posted

He offered less than half, but it was unacceptable.

Kyle Piro

Kyle Piro

Posted

Feel free to contact our office to discuss the matter further.

Posted

You should talk to an attorney regarding sending a demand letter to your landlord. Were there actually damages to the apartment/was his list of itemized damages legitimate? When you moved in did you document the already existing damage in the apartment or did your landlord or was it never done? Many attorneys will send demand letters on a contingent fee, meaning you only pay attorneys fees if they are successful in collecting your security deposit. I think at the very least you should speak to an attorney asap.

Melissa Levine
www.levinepirolaw.com

Melissa Levine is a licensed attorney in Massachusetts. All answers are based on Massachusetts law and should not be construed as legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is formed by Attorney Levine answering your question. It is advisable to consult with an attorney about your personal legal concerns.

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