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The purpose of the security deposit is to indemnify the landlord against losses due to the tenant's failure to pay rent or to pay for repairs if the tenant damages the premises.
Landlords are allowed to collect the first and last month's rent, a security deposit equal to one month's rent and money for the purchase and installation costs for a lock and key. These prepayments can't be transferred for another use unless both parties agree (this means your security deposit cannot be used as your last month's rent, unless the tenant and landlord agree). If the landlord later raises the rent, s/he can increase the amount of last's month's rent to equal the new rent.
The landlord must hold the security deposit in a separate, interest-bearing account in a Massachusetts bank. A receipt must be given to the tenant for their payment within 30 days of the landlord receiving the security deposit. The receipt must list:
The landlord must pay interest on both the security deposit and the last month's rent.
The tenant is entitled to the immediate return of the prepayments made such as the security deposit and last month's rent if the landlord:
The tenant is entitled to the immediate return of the prepayments and potential triple damages, court costs, and attorney's fees if the landlord:
The landlord must return the security deposit or balance within 30 days after the termination of tenancy. However, the landlord can deduct from the full amount for:
If the premises are damaged, the landlord must provide the tenant a detailed list of damages and the necessary repairs within 30 days after the tenancy ends. The landlord or agent must swear to this list under the pains and penalties of perjury. In addition, the landlord or agent must provide the tenant with written evidence indicating the actual or estimated cost of these repairs, such as estimates, bills, invoices, or receipts.
Transfers of Pre-payments to New Landlords: If the building is sold or transferred to a new owner, the landlord must credit the last month's rent and security deposit, with any accrued interest, to the new landlord. The new landlord must notifying the tenants about the transfer, in writing, within 45 days of receiving the money. If the former landlord fails to transfer the pre-payments to the new landlord, they are still liable, but the new landlord is also obligated to the tenant for the amount of the pre-payments. The new landlord can satisfy this obligation by granting free rent for a time equivalent to the payments made.
The tenant is entitled to the immediate return of the security deposit plus accrued interest if the landlord:
The landlord cannot keep any portion of the security deposit for any reason, including making deductions for damages, or counterclaim for any damage to the premises in a court action by the tenant to recover a security deposit if the landlord . . .
The tenant could be entitled to three times the amount of the security deposit or the remaining balance to which the tenant is entitled after lawful deductions with interest, plus court costs and reasonable attorney's fees if the landlord . . .
If the landlord fails to pay the tenant any interest to which the tenant is lawfully entitled (including interest on the security deposit and interest on the last month's rent) within 30 days after termination of the tenancy, the tenant may be entitled to three times the interest, plus court costs, and reasonable attorney's fees.
NOTE: Continuing liability of former owner
The former owner and agent remain liable under the treble damages provision of the Statute for retention and accounting, until either:
The new owner has full liability for the treble damages, even if the former owner fails to transfer the security deposit and fails to give the proper notice described immediately above.
It is recommended that if a landlord chooses to take a security deposit, it is advisable to consult an attorney or other real estate professional before doing so, because the penalties for failing to properly handle the tenant's money are severe.
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