Massachusetts law about tenants' security deposits

A compilation of laws, regulations, cases and web sources on security deposit law.

Table of Contents

Massachusetts laws

MGL c. 186, § 15B Security deposits
Provides the detailed requirements for handling security deposits

Massachusetts regulations

940 CMR 3.17(4)  Security deposits and rent in advance

Federal regulations

24 CFR § 886.315 Section 8 Housing security and utility deposits

Selected case law

Castenholz v. Caira , 21 Mass. App. Ct. 758 (1986)
"A landlord who accepts a security deposit and fails to comply with the deposit requirements of G. L. c. 186, Section 15B (3) (a)," is liable to the tenant "for the return of the security deposit pursuant to G. L. c. 186, Section 15B (3) (a)." "If the landlord refuses to acknowledge his error and return the deposit, thus forcing the tenant to employ legal process to vindicate his rights, the landlord will be liable for treble damages, interest, costs, and attorney's fees."

Dolores v. Gustafson , 2009 Mass. App. Div. 267 (2009)
Clearly explains the distinction between Castenholz and Taylor. Where "the full security deposit was not returned within 30 days of the termination of the tenancy,... the penalty provisions of s.15B(7) are controlling..., irrespective of whether the defendants made a timely return of the plaintiffs' security deposit when notified of their error."

Meikle v. Nurse , 474 Mass. 207 (2016) 
The SJC held that "a violation of the security deposit statute... may be asserted as a defense to a landlord's possession in a summary process action under G. L. c. 239, § 1A" However, "The statute does not impose an obligatory tenancy on the landlord. Nothing in the statute prevents the landlord from bringing a second summary process action for possession after he or she has remedied the violation of the security deposit statute."

Mellor v. Berman , 390 Mass. 275 (1983)
"An award of treble damages for improper retention of all or part of a security deposit is not conditional on a finding of bad faith or wilful violations by the lessor."

Phillips v. Equity Residential Management, LLC, 478 Mass. 251 (2017)
Not all violations of the security deposit act call for triple damages. A tenant is only entitled to recover triple damages for those violations of the act that specifically call for an award of triple damages.

Taylor v. Beaudry , 75 Mass. App. Ct. 411 (2009)
Returning a security deposit after more than thirty days have passed since the end of the tenancy, but before litigation, does not get a landlord off the hook for triple damages. The "Castenholz framework is inapplicable to a landlord's failure to return the tenant's security deposit within the specified thirty days." In Castenholz, the tenant's demand for return of the deposit was the triggering event. In this case, "The statutory obligation to return the deposit is clear, as is the time within which the deposit must be returned. Equally unambiguous are the consequences of failing to comply with that deadline."

Taylor v. Burke , 69 Mass. App. Ct . 77 (2007)
Placing the money in an out-of-state bank does not conform to the statute


Apartment condition statement, Worcester Law Library.
This is a statement of the condition of the premises you have leased or rented. This statement must be returned to the Landlord, Lessor or Agent within 15 days after you receive it or within 15 days after you move in, whichever is later.

Web sources

Legal tactics: tenants' rights in Massachusetts, chapter 3 security deposits and last month's rent, Mass. Legal Help, 2017
Best source for detailed information for tenants on security deposit law

Getting back your security deposit, Mass. Legal Help
Explains what a tenant needs to do to get their security deposit returned

How to be a landlord in Massachusetts and avoid legal trouble: security deposits, A. Joseph Ross, 2017
Helpful information for landlords

Landlord rights and responsibilities, Mass. Office of Consumer Affairs
Includes information on security deposits

Learn about holding a security deposit, Housing Court
Find out what a landlord's requirements are for holding a security deposit.

Within 30 days of depositing the security deposit, the landlord must give the tenant in writing: 1) the name and location of the bank where the deposit is being held; 2) the amount of the deposit; and 3) the account number

Mandatory statement of condition, Mass. Office of Consumer Affairs
If a landlord or agent takes a security deposit, they must provide a signed, separate statement of the present condition of the apartment including a comprehensive list of any existing damage.

Print sources

Landlord and tenant law (Mass. practice v.33A), West, 2000 with supplement
Chapter 14 includes duties of landlord pertaining to security deposits and last month's rent, and sample forms

Massachusetts landlord survival guide, Greater Boston Real Estate Board, 2012
Includes sample forms for landlords to use

Massachusetts landlord-tenant law, Lexis, George Warshaw, 2d edition, 2001
Chapter 17 covers security deposits. The supplement to section 17.8 explains how the landlord should properly fill out the Statement of Condition, as well as when the tenant needs to return it to the landlord or agent to avoid possible legal problems.

Massachusetts landlord-tenant practice: law and forms: security deposits and last month's rent, G. Emil Ward, 2011
"A detailed very comprehensive book which focuses on solving the security deposit issues of residential owners and managers of property in Massachusetts."

Residential and commercial landlord-tenant practice in Massachusetts, MCLE, loose-leaf
Chapter 1 details the security deposit requirements



Within Massachusetts only

Within Massachusetts only


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Last updated: May 1, 2019