A recent article from the Boston Globe, “Apartment management won’t return security deposit? That’s just one problem at this Revere complex,” highlights the importance of understanding Massachusetts’ security deposit law: an important consumer protection law for tenants.
Overview of Massachusetts’s Security Deposit Law
This article discusses a common scenario for tenants who have provided a landlord with a security deposit: a landlord’s outright refusal to return the deposit at the end of the tenancy. Prior to the security deposit law, tenants had few options for pursuing such claims; often, the expense in attorney fees for suing for one of these deposits made such claims far more expensive than the actual deposit itself.
For this reason, Massachusetts passed the security deposit law, which, I imagine, is one of the most pro-tenant laws in the entire country. This law imposes numerous regulations on the acceptance, holding, and return of a security deposit, and provides stiff penalties for a landlord’s failure to comply with this law, namely, treble damages of the deposit. This is 0ne reason, among many, why a landlord should consider not accepting a security deposit in the first place.
Violation of the Security Deposit Law
It is a common misconception that every violation of the security deposit law allows a tenant to recover treble damages, attorney fees, and costs against a landlord. Rather, the Supreme Judicial Court has clarified that some violations of the law simply require the immediate return of the deposit, while others mandate treble damages. Generally, a landlord’s failure to return a security deposit within thirty days after the end of the tenancy (or otherwise account for its use towards any damage in the apartment) will impose the treble damage penalty.
If you find yourself having difficulty with a security deposit, contact me for a consultation. I have helped many Massachusetts tenants obtain the return of their deposits and take full advantage of the protections of this law.