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I did not open an escrow for security deposit. I am not in the business of renting out properties.

Waltham, MA |

So I was not aware of the security deposit law. The security deposit was deposited in my personal account. What can I do at this stage to avoid penalties? Can I open an escrow account now to mitigate the situation somewhat? Should I return the money to the tenant right away? If I return the money then he may become suspicious and try to take advantage of me. My relationship with him is not the best. He wants to break the lease and not pay last month's rent because he is moving back to his home country a month early. So he is trying to find reasons to break the lease. His emails to me show his bad intent. He does not want to pay the water bill despite signing the lease about it.

But unfortunately I am caught in this situation with security deposit. Please advise.

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Attorney answers 4


Why not try to strike a deal where you agree he can leave early and he agrees you keep the deposit? Just make sure it is in writing. But yes, otherwise you would need to return it if you are following the law.



The problem is he is expecting not to pay anything for last month's rent and is also expecting full return of security deposit. Basically, I will be out of one month's rent. He is saying that since he is not going to reside in the house, why should he pay the rent at all for that month. If I pay him the security deposit right away, can I still be sued for triple the security deposit + attroney fees?

Edward Rice

Edward Rice


Yes you could still be sued. However I would not expect him to win. With him leaving the country it also seems less likely he would still sue.


You need to talk to a lawyer. Charging for a water bill could cost you more than the security deposit, unless you do it correctly (and it's almost impossible to do it correctly ).

There are lots of rules about the security deposit too. Of the tenant asks for the security deposit you MUST give it back immediately.

Good luck

As with any advice given on this web site, please contact an attorney so ALL facts can be disclosed before any action is taken


You have to be very careful with the security deposit law and in separately metering utilities. Your riskiest course of action is to do nothing. Less risky would be to place the money into a separate tenant's account. The safest thing to do would be to return the security deposit. Once returned, your liability is probably zero. Whether you are in the business of renting properties or not, certain violations of tenant-landlord law carry penalties like treble damages and an award of attorney's fees. If you are going to continue to be a landlord, you should have legal counsel to assist you in the enterprise. Making a mistake is far more costly than paying legal counsel to help you avoid them.


Dealing with the security deposit is easy at this point since you have no legal right to it. You must either return the security deposit to the tenant upon demand or within thirty days of termination of the tenancy. Your failure to place the security deposit into a separate interest bearing account secure from your creditors, gives the tenant the right to demand its return and prevents you from being able to deduct from it for owed rent and damages. Regarding charging your tenant for water, you have to be very cautious on this front. Landlords are required, among other things, to install efficient fixtures, ensure that the water is separately metered to the unit against which it is being charged, etc. There are too many requirements to go into detail here. You could be subject to liability for failing to comply with the requirements. Although you may not consider yourself in the business of renting out properties, that is absolutely the case whether you rent 1 or 100 apartments. It is difficult to be a landlord in Massachusetts. I recommend that you consult with an attorney to keep out of trouble in the future.

This "answer" is for information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or to create an attorney-client relationship.

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