Massachusetts Security Deposits 101
This Wednesday, I will be moderating a panel at the Boston Bar Association on Massachusetts’s security deposit law. Most people, especially landlords, are often surprised at how something as mundane as a security deposit law can be so complex and confusing.
Those who ignore this law, however, do so at their peril. The law is incredibly detailed and complex, and a trap for the unwary.
Overview of Security Deposits
The Massachusetts security deposit law regulates the receipt, holding, and return of these funds from a tenant. A central theme of this law is that these funds are the tenant’s money. By holding this money from the tenant, a landlord is required to exercise extreme care with all aspects of these funds.
For these reasons, security deposits are risky, given the many requirements of this law and, as discussed below, the penalties for noncompliance.
Security Deposit Violations
Security deposit violations can be severe. Failure to comply with the law can result in treble damages, court costs, and attorney fees. This means that even a small security deposit can result in an enormous judgment against a landlord if the landlord violates this law.
It is a common misconception that every violation of the security deposit law results in triple damages against a landlord. A recent court decision clarified that not all violations result in treble damages. Rather, some violations simply entitle the tenant to the immediate return of the deposit, while others will be grounds for full damages against a landlord.
If you need assistance with a security deposit matter, contact me for a consultation.