Massachusetts Landlord Tenant Law: A Security Deposit Primer
Massachusetts takes consumer protection very seriously. Massachusetts has some of the strongest consumer protection laws in the country. Included under the umbrella of consumer protection is the area of Landlord/Tenant law. When renting an apartment it is important to be aware of the law in Massachusetts so you don’t get taken advantage of. Some landlords will try to tack on fees or prepayments to your initial payment when signing the lease. Massachusetts’ law limits what landlords can take as a prepayment. Massachusetts’ landlords may only collect 4 things:
- First Month’s Rent
- Last Month’s Rent
- Security Deposit
- Lock Changing Fee
If your landlord charges you for anything else it is an unfair and deceptive practice and you may be entitled to double or triple damages and attorney’s fees. It is important that you protect yourself by asking for a statement of condition of the apartment when you move in. Your landlord must give you one in writing. This way you will have in writing from the landlord any defects that he/she is aware of. Also take pictures of the apartment when you move in and when you move out.
Security deposits and last month’s rent are also subject to additional laws and regulation and have been since the 1970s! In the eyes of the law security deposits and last month’s rents are still yours until they come due. The law requires that your landlord keep both the security deposit and last month’s rent in a separate interest bearing account. So the whole duration of your tenancy your security deposit and last month’s rent are earning interest. If your landlord does not do this then you are entitled to 5% interest and may again be able to get double or triple damages and attorney’s fees.
Landlords may use the security deposits for a number of things. For instance, the security deposit may be used to cover unpaid rent or to pay for repairs. However, when a deduction is made from the security deposit your landlord must give you an itemized accounting of what the deduction was and what it was used for. If your landlord doesn’t provide this when requested or within 30 days of the end of the tenancy then they may have violated Massachusetts’ consumer protection laws.
This is a brief overview of security deposit law in Massachusetts. This is not a substitute for legal advice. Consult an attorney immediately if you think that you have been taken advantage of. Tenants have a lot of rights in Massachusetts and I will be outlining more of them in the coming weeks on this blog.