Rule number one for Massachusetts landlords: never, never take a security deposit. As I have written before, the risks just aren’t worth it. The Massachusetts Security Deposit Law is one of the most complex and detailed laws on the books, with numerous traps for the unwary. Failing to follow one of the law’s requirements can result in treble damages, attorney fees, and costs against the landlord. As such, a $1,000 security deposit can easily result in $4,000-$5,000 in damages against a landlord if the security deposit law is not strictly followed.
An important part of this law concerns returning a security deposit. Returning a security deposit would seemingly be an easy task, with the landlord simply taking the required amount of damages from the deposit and returning the balance to the tenant. The security deposit law, however, has detailed requirements for how this must be done. Failing to comply with even the most minor requirements of this law can result in enormous damages to the landlord.
How should a landlord handle returning a security deposit? Contact a landlord/tenant attorney. An attorney can help ensure that each of these requirements are complied with and save time, money, and heartache down the road. While it may seem “overkill” to hire an attorney for such a seemingly small matter, doing so can avoid an even bigger problem resulting for a violation of this law.
Tenants who are having problems with getting their security deposits back should also speak to a landlord/tenant attorney. The aim of the Massachusetts Security Deposit Law is to avoid having tenants lose their security deposits without cause, and provides relief for violations of this law.