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Massachusetts law about tenants' security deposits

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

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."

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

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
One of the few sources geared toward landlords

Landlord Rights and Responsibilities, Mass. Office of Consumer Affairs
Includes information on security deposits

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 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

Last update: August 7, 2017

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