Massachusetts law about tenants' security deposits

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

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Table of Contents

Best bet

Legal tactics: tenants' rights in Massachusetts, chapter 3 security deposits and last month's rent, Mass. Legal Help, 2018.
Best source for detailed information for tenants on security deposit law.

Massachusetts laws

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

  • Vacation rentals, see subsection (9): The provisions of this section shall not apply to any lease, rental, occupancy or tenancy of one hundred days or less in duration which lease or rental is for a vacation or recreational purpose.

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)
If a landlord does not place a security deposit in an escrow account within 30 days of receipt, and fails to return the security deposit to the tenant, and the tenant must go to court to get the money back, the landlord must pay triple damages, interest, costs, and attorney’s fees.

Dolores v. Gustafson , 2009 Mass. App. Div. 267 (2009)
Even if the landlord returns the security deposit within 30 days of the end of the tenancy, triple damages may apply if the landlord has not followed any of the other provisions of the law that trigger triple damages, such as keeping the money in a separate account or providing a proper itemized list of damage and repairs made.

Karaa v. Yim, 86 Mass. App. Ct. 714 (2014)
“Landlord’s failure to return deposit within thirty days did not trigger treble damages provision, where tenant offered security deposit as compensation for their own breach of lease.”

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.

Ryan v. Mary Ann Morse Healthcare Corp., 483 Mass. 612 (2019)
The security deposit law applies to assisted living residences, but those residences can also charge additional up-front fees for the unique services they provide.

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

Forms

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

FAQ about security deposits, MassLandlords.net Newsletter, March 2020.
Helpful information for landlords on how to handle security deposits.

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, chapter 25. A. Joseph Ross, May 2020
Helpful information for landlords.

Learn about holding a security deposit, Mass. 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

Learn about returning or getting back a security deposit  
Find out what the requirements are for a tenant to get a security deposit back.

“A landlord must return a tenant’s security deposit and any interest, minus any portion that was rightfully subtracted, within 30 days after the tenant moves out.”

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.

Massachusetts security deposit limits and deadlines, Nolo, 2017.
Quick and easy to understand overview of Massachusetts security deposit law.

Renting rights, Mass. Consumer Affairs Blog, 2018.
Includes answers to questions relating to renting and security deposits.

Security deposits, MassLandlords.net.
MassLandlords is a landlord trade association for Massachusetts. This article includes an introduction to Massachusetts security deposit law for landlords, what must be in a security deposit receipt, a checklist to avoid security deposit triple damages, and how to make a security deposit return.

Print sources

Massachusetts landlord survival guide, Greater Boston Real Estate Board, 2020.
Includes sample forms for landlords to use.

Massachusetts landlord-tenant law, Lexis, George Warshaw, 2d edition, 2001, with supplement.
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, 2013.
"A detailed very comprehensive book which focuses on solving the security deposit issues of residential owners and managers of property in Massachusetts."

Massachusetts Practice:

Property management manual for Massachusetts rental owners, 6th ed., H. John Fisher, HAP Housing (2015). Chapter 7. “Security Deposits and Last Month’s Rent.”

Residential and commercial landlord-tenant practice in Massachusetts, 3rd ed., MCLE, loose-leaf, Chapter 1. 

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Last updated: October 31, 2022
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