By: Attorney Corey T. Pontes| Associate
Massachusetts affords tenants wide protections when it comes to what happens to their security deposits after they are given to their landlord. The landlord must strictly adhere to the statutes covering security deposits, or risk losing the deposit, or even be held liable for multiple damages and additional fees to the tenant.
When a tenant pays to the landlord a security deposit, the landlord, under Massachusetts law, must put that deposit into a separate, interest bearing account in a bank in Massachusetts. A receipt must be given to the tenant within 30 days of receiving the security deposit. This receipt must include the name and location of the bank holding the security deposit, the amount and the account number. Failure to do so entitles the tenant to the immediate return of the security deposit.
If the security deposit is held by the landlord for a period of one year or longer, the landlord must pay to the tenant each year five percent interest on the security deposit, or such lesser amount of interest that has been received by the bank.
There are several ways in which a landlord’s conduct could result in the landlord forfeiting any portion of the security deposit, including:
1) Failing to deposit the security deposit as outlined above;
2) Failing to provide the tenant within 30 days after the termination of occupancy an itemized list of damages to the property, if any;
3) uses in any lease signed by the tenant any provision which conflicts with any provision of the statute concerning security deposits and attempts to enforce such provision or attempts to obtain from the tenant or prospective tenant a waiver of any provision of this section;
4) Failing to return to the tenant the security deposit or balance thereof, together with any interest, within 30 days after the termination of the tenancy.
According to the statute, if the landlord fails to comply with #1 or #4 above, the tenant shall be awarded three times the amount of the security deposit, plus interest in the amount of five percent from the date when such payment came due, together with any court costs and attorney fees.
Some tenants may be unaware of the protections that Massachusetts provides them in regards to security deposits. Landlords must follow the statute strictly in order to avoid liability to their tenants. Tenants should be vigilant in keeping track of their security deposit and whether or not it was placed into an interest bearing account. Keeping records of what is and what is not received by the landlord will go far in assuring that the landlord is held accountable to the tenant.
If you have any questions or if you need guidance as either a landlord or a tenant, please call the attorneys at Wynn & Wynn, P.C. at 1.800.852.5211 or request a free consultation.