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March 16, 2018 |

Security Deposits: What Are the Rules on Withholding Money?

Under the law in the state of Massachusetts, there are strict rules regarding security deposits. Landlords are not allowed to ask for a security deposit that is larger than the first month's rent and if landlords rent to tenants in subsidized housing, there are additional restrictions on the amount landlords can charge.

Landlords are also expected to return the security deposit except in limited circumstances. A Boston landlord tenant lawyer can provide insight into when a landlord can legally withhold money from a security deposit and can offer assistance in circumstances where a conflict arises over whether a security deposit should be returned in full.

When Can a Landlord Withhold Funds From a Security Deposit?

Landlords are allowed to retain a tenant's security deposit only in a few specific situations. For example, a landlord can keep a tenant's security deposit if the tenant moves out with unpaid rent that is due and the landlord keeps the funds to cover the remaining rent balance.  Landlords are also allowed to keep a security deposit if the tenant has done substantial damage to the apartment

In order for a landlord to be able to keep a security deposit based on damage to the apartment, the damage that was done must be much worse than reasonable wear and tear on an apartment. If a landlord repaints the apartment in between tenants because the walls naturally get a little bit dirty or become a little scuffed and faded over time, a landlord cannot withhold money from the security deposit to cover the costs of painting. 

Landlords also are not permitted to withhold security deposits for small repairs that need to be made that occur due to routine wear-and-tear caused by living in the apartment and are not allowed to charge for normal cleaning costs incurred after a tenant has moved out.

However, if a tenant left an apartment unusually filthy because of never removing trash or cleaning the kitchen, then the landlord may be able to withhold funds from the security deposit for cleaning that is outside of normal, customary cleaning usually required when a tenant departs.

If a tenant did serious damage, such as putting large holes in the wall of the apartment or breaking windows, this would be an example of another situation where a landlord would typically be allowed to retain the tenant's security deposit.

Unless a landlord has justification to retain a security deposit in the form of unpaid rent or actual damage to the property that goes beyond wear-and-tear, landlords need to return a deposit within interest within 30 days of the time a tenant moves from the apartment. If landlords do not return a deposit and a tenant sues, the tenant may be awarded compensation equal to three times the deposit.

If you are involved in a dispute over the return of a security deposit, it is imperative that you get the proper legal help to protect your interests. A Boston landlord lawyer can provide you with assistance, so give us a call today to find out more.

Posted in Landlord-Tenant Information

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