When a Massachusetts tenant leaves damage to a rental unit at move out, the Massachusetts Security Deposit Law allows a landlord to deduct the cost of repairs from the security deposit, provided the landlord issues a sworn statement of itemized damage along with repair estimates within 30 days of the move out.
Recently the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court had the opportunity to clarify this particular provision of the law in the class action case of Phillips v. Equity Residential Management LLC. In this case, Equity Residential, attempted to deduct $968.08 in carpet and other cleaning charges from a tenant's security deposit.
However, Equity failed to provide the required itemized statement sworn under the pains and penalties of perjury. The tenant filed a class action seeking return of the deposit, triple damages, and attorneys' fees under the statute.
The Court ruled in favor of the landlord, stating that while the landlord mistakenly failed to provide the sworn statement the law was clear that this is not one of the situations where triple damages is the proper remedy and Equity did have to return the tenant's security deposit in full.
While this case came out on the landlord's side, it demonstrates the risks involved in failing to comply strictly with the Massachusetts Security Deposit Law.
As a reminder, if a landlord is claiming that a tenant caused damage at the end of the tenancy and wants to deduct it from the deposit, it must provide within thirty days "an itemized list of damages, sworn to by the lessor or his agent under pains and penalties of perjury, itemizing in precise detail the nature of the damage and of the repairs necessary to correct such damage, and written evidence, such as estimates, bills, invoices or receipts, indicating the actual or estimated cost thereof."
The law also requires that landlord provide a "statement of condition" at the beginning of the tenancy, so that damage can be verified. Only then will a landlord be allowed to deduct repair costs from a security deposit.
If you need assistance with a landlord tenant issue, contact the Law Offices of Renee Lazar either through telephone 978-844-4095 or email to schedule a FREE one hour no obligation consultation.