It is not uncommon for Massachusetts landlords to accept security deposits from tenants. In doing so, many make mistakes in complying with Massachusetts’s security deposit law; arguably one of the most complex and detailed laws in the state.
This law provides numerous protections that can help tenants with getting a security deposit back if a landlord unreasonably refuses to return it.
Overview of the Massachusetts Security Deposit Law
Massachusetts’s security deposit law regulates how a landlord is allowed to collect and hold a tenant’s security deposit. Skim through this law and you’ll see that almost everything concerning a security deposit is subject to one of this law’s provisions. The amount of the security deposit, bank account where it can be held, and the return of the deposit are all covered by this law.
Failure to comply with Massachusetts’s security deposit law has dire consequences for landlords. Penalties can include treble damages, court costs, and attorney fees. This means that even a small security deposit violation can lead to a large judgement for non-compliance with this law.
Penalties for Not Complying with the Security Deposit Law
Penalties for not complying with this law generally fall into two categories: forfeiture of the deposit or treble damages.
The first type of penalty, forfeiture, allows a tenant to get their deposit back right away if the landlord fails to comply with certain portions of the law, and the tenant demands the deposit’s return. If a landlord does not immediately return the deposit, they risk subjecting themselves to the more severe penalties under this law.
The second category of damages are treble damages, which are reserved for the most egregious violations of the security deposit law. Most common is a landlord’s failure to return the deposit (or account for its use) within thirty days after the tenancy ends.
Options for Getting Back a Security Deposit
A common way for raising a security deposit claim is through a Consumer Protection Law demand letter. Such a demand letter can be an effective means of getting a prompt resolution to one of these disputes. Moreover, a landlord’s failure to respond to such a letter with a reasonable settlement offer can be further grounds for liability.
Security deposit claims can be pursued in small claims court or in a civil action. To do so, a tenant should strongly consider speaking with an experienced landlord-tenant attorney about one of these matters.
If you need help with getting back a security deposit in Massachusetts, contact me for a consultation.