Security Deposit FAQ

What is the difference between a security deposit and last month’s rent?

  • A security deposit is money that you pay, but is returned to you at the end of your tenancy. However, some money may be deducted to repair damages that you make to the apartment, other than normal “wear and tear”.
  • Last month’s rent is used to protect the landlord from the tenant leaving without paying a portion of the rent. It is not returned to you and should be used to pay the last month’s rent when you move out.

How much can a landlord request?

  • The only amounts a landlord can charge in Massachusetts are first month’s rent, last month’s rent, a security deposit equal to or less than one month’s rent, and the cost of a new lock and key for the unit.
  • Any extra deposits cannot be charged.
  • Please note that if the landlord is also a licensed realtor, they may also charge a broker’s fee.

What must landlords do if they are holding a security deposit for me?

  • They must give you a written receipt with the following information: the amount received, the date received, the name of the receiver (landlord), a statement saying you are entitled to the interest, the address and number of the apartment rented, the name and location of the bank where the money is being held and the account number for the deposited money. This money must be held in an interest bearing account separate from the landlord’s personal account.
  • Ten days after providing a receipt, landlords must also give you a statement of conditions. It should list all damages and be signed by the landlord, so that you can not be charged for them later. You may sign it and return it if you agree, or add changes to it.
  • You are entitled to collect 5 percent interest, or the actual amount of interest collected on your money, whichever is less.
  • The landlord must also keep a written record of all security deposits made and it must be available to any tenant who wishes to see the record.

What happens to my security deposit when I move out?

  • You are entitled to get your security deposit back, even while still living in that apartment, if the landlord didn’t put the money in a separate account, didn’t give you a receipt, or if he doesn’t allow you to see the deposit records.
  • Otherwise, if no damage was done you receive your security deposit, plus interest, back within 30 days of your moving out.
  • The landlord may deduct money for any missed rent or for damaged caused by you or your guests, other than normal “wear and tear”. If so, they must provide a list of damages as well as any receipts for repairs before you move out.

What can I do to protect myself when I move out?

  • Try to get the landlord to inspect your apartment so that you can agree on the damages. If this isn’t possible, take pictures, in case the landlord claims damages later.

What can I do if my landlord violates my rights?

  • You can take your landlord to small claims court and sue him/her for the return of the deposit. You are entitled to three times the amount of the deposit if the landlord didn’t return your deposit in 30 days, didn’t put the money in a separate account, or failed to send you a statement of damages and costs within 30 days.
  • Your landlord cannot sue you for the amount of the damages if he didn’t send you the statement of damages within 30 days of your move-out date.

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