A landlord not giving a security deposit back is one of the most common type of landlord/tenant problems. What should a tenant do if this happens to them?
Overview of Massachusetts’s 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–most relevant to this post–the return of the deposit are covered by this law.
Failure to comply with Massachusetts’s security deposit 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.
Requirements for Returning a Tenant’s Security Deposit
The return of a security deposit must be done carefully. A landlord is only allowed to deduct from the deposit unpaid rent or water charges, an unpaid increase in real estate taxes (if the tenant was obligated to pay this under the terms of the tenancy), and a reasonable amount to repair any damage to the unit. For the latter deduction, the landlord must provide a list of these damages, sworn under “the pains and penalties of perjury” and written evidence of these expenses.
This return of the deposit must be made within thirty days of the tenant ending their tenancy.
What To Do About a Landlord Not Giving a Security Deposit Back
If your landlord is not giving your security deposit back, consult an experienced landlord/tenant lawyer. An attorney can review your case and quickly determine whether you have a claim against your landlord. Massachusetts’s security deposit law, importantly, often provides for attorney fees: if you prevail in your case against a landlord, the costs of hiring an attorney may be recovered in the case.