Most residential leases and rental agreements in Massachusetts require a security deposit. This is a dollar amount, usually one month's rent, that's intended to cover damage to the premises beyond normal wear and tear, and to cushion the financial blow if a tenant skips out early on the lease without paying. Here’s a summary of Massachusetts landlord-tenant laws that cover the use and return of security deposits.
Does Massachusetts law limit how much a landlord can charge a tenant for a security deposit?
Yes. Massachusetts landlord-tenant law allows landlords to charge tenants the equivalent of one month's rent for the security deposit.
To learn more about steps that tenants can take to protect their security deposit after they've paid it, check out Nolo's article Protect Your Security Deposit When You Move In.
What about when a tenant moves out? What is the deadline in Massachusetts for returning a security deposit?
Under Massachusetts law, a landlord must return the tenant's security deposit within 30 days after the tenant has surrendered the rental property to the landlord (that is, returned the keys and vacated the property).
Learn more about tenants' rights and landlords' obligations when it comes to the return of the security deposit in Nolo's chart Cleaning and Repairs a Landlord Can Deduct from a Security Deposit and Nolo's article Get Your Security Deposit Back.
Is there additional information that Massachusetts landlords must provide to tenants when it comes to security deposits in Massachusetts?
Yes. Landlords in Massachusetts must, at the time of receiving the security deposit, provide the tenant with a receipt indicating the amount of the deposit; the name of the person receiving it, and, if received by a property manager, the name of the lessor for whom the security deposit is received; the date on which the deposit is received; and a description of the premises leased or rented.
Within 30 days of receiving the security deposit, the landlord must disclose the name and location of the bank in which the deposit has been deposited, and the amount and account number of the deposit.
Landlords in Massachusetts must also pay tenants 5% interest on the security deposit per year, or the amount of interest paid by the bank (the bank must be in Massachusetts). Interest should be paid yearly, and within 30 days of the termination date. Interest will not accrue for the last month for which rent was paid.
Where can I look up Massachusetts law on security deposits?
If you want to go right to the source and look up Massachusetts law on security deposits -- or if you're writing a letter to your landlord or tenant and want to cite the applicable law -- the relevant statute(s) can be found at Massachusetts General Laws Annotated Chapter 186 § section 15B. Your city or county might have different landlord-tenant and security deposit laws than those at the state level in Massachusetts. For tips on looking up Massachusetts state and local laws, check out Nolo's State Laws & Legal Research section.
For other useful information on tenant rights regarding deposits, see the guide available at http://www.mass.gov/ago/docs/consumer/landlordtenant073007.pdf.