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Massachusetts security deposit laws

Last updated: May 05, 2015

What’s the deal with security deposit laws in Massachusetts?

To secure a renter, landlords in Massachusetts may charge up to one month’s rent as a security deposit, first and last month’s rent, and a “re-key” fee.

There are many complexities to the rental deposit laws in Massachusetts – for example, did you know that money must be held in a separate bank account to allow it to accrue interest while the renter occupies the property?

Read on to learn more about the specifics of collecting and returning security deposits in the state of Massachusetts.

Do I need to charge a security deposit in Massachusetts?

You don’t need to. In fact, many landlords in Massachusetts only ask prospective tenants to provide first and last month’s rent to secure a property.

Its important to remember that security deposits are designed to protect the landlord in the event that a tenant damages the property or changes it without permission. Without a security deposit, landlords or property owners are responsible for the costs of repairs or cleaning beyond normal wear and tear.

If you do decide to ask for a security deposit, its important to know how Massachusetts expects landlords to handle and use this money.

What are the limits on rental deposits in Massachusetts?

  • A security deposit cannot be more than one month’s rent.
  • Charges to secure an apartment in Massachusetts cannot exceed three month’s rent (first, last, and security) and a re-key fee.
  • Pet fees, holding fees, and cleaning fees are illegal.

For example: for an apartment that costs $1,200/month, landlords cannot expect any more than $3,600 (and a re-key fee) as the deposit.

Do landlords need to provide a receipt for a security deposit?


Immediately upon receiving a security deposit, landlords need to provide tenants with a receipt detailing the amount of the deposit, the name of the person receiving it, and the name of the lessor for whom its received (if accepted by a property manager).

Within 10 days, the landlord must provide the tenant with a Statement of Condition, detailing all existing damage to the apartment. This must be signed by the tenant no later than 15 days after move in. It is recommended that landlords and property managers consult a lawyer to ensure these forms are completed correctly.

Within 30 days of receiving the security deposit, the landlord must provide information to tenants regarding the location of the bank where the deposit is being held, the account number, and the amount being held. The renter may be entitled to as much as three times the security deposit (minus any deductions) if the money is not deposited into a secure, interest-bearing account within the state of Massachusetts.

What can security deposit money be used for?

Massachusetts law allows landlords or property managers to use the security deposit to cover:

  • Unpaid rent
  • The cost of fixing damages to the property that were not present before move in
  • Unpaid tax increases, if part of the original lease agreement.
  • Any items listed in the “Statement of Condition.”

What doesn’t the security deposit cover?

Landlords and property managers in Massachusetts cannot use the security deposit to cover the cost of repairing normal wear and tear damage to a property; the cost of an eviction; or legal fees.

What is the deadline to return a security deposit in Massachusetts?

The security deposit plus any accrued interest needs to be returned to renters no later than 30 days after they vacate the property.

Tenants may be entitled to an immediate return of the security deposit citing failure on the part of the landlord to follow Massachusetts law about handling and using the deposit.

What about the interest earned?

If renters stay more than one year, any accrued interest needs to be given to them on an annual basis.

Failure to return any accrued interest within 30 days after lease termination, renters are entitled to three times the interest, court costs, and related attorney’s fees.

Do landlords need to notify renters of security deposit money used to fix damages?

Yes. Within 30 days of vacating the property, a sworn, itemized list of deductions must be provided to tenants.

Where can I learn more about Massachusetts Security Deposit laws?

If you have any questions, or think you may want to learn more about security deposit laws in Massachusetts, please consult a lawyer.


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Disclaimer: The materials on this database provide general information related to the law and are intended to provide a layman’s summary of the law. The information provided does not constitute legal advice and the manager of this database is not a law firm. These materials are intended, but cannot be promised or guaranteed to be current, complete or up-to-date. All of the information offered are intended for general informational purposes only. You should not act or rely on any of the information contained on this database without first seeking the advice of a qualified attorney.

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