Property Management Blog

What is Massachusetts’ Law About Security Deposits?

System - Monday, December 29, 2014
Property Management Blog

A security deposit is a way of minimizing the risk associated with renting out a property to tenants. In Massachusetts law, a landlord can only charge the equivalent of one month’s rent as security deposit that will be returned to the tenant once the lease or agreement expires.

Here are the basics that every landlord should know.

Receipt for Received Security Deposit

Section 15B (2b) states that a landlord or his agent must give the tenant a receipt for the security deposit. The receipt must include the names of all concerned parties – landlord, agent, tenant – the date when it was received and must be signed by the person receiving the security deposit.

Written Statement of Present Conditions

The landlord, or whoever signs the receipt, must provide the tenant with a complete written statement of the present conditions of the property. This statement must list all the existing damage in the property being rented or leased. It must also include any violations to the state sanitary or state building codes certified by a local board of health or building official.

This statement must be provided to the tenants within ten days of authorizing the lease (rental agreement) and the tenants must return within (15) days of move in.  At BBA Management we utilize electronic and cloud based DotLoop paperwork to dramatically improve the likely hood a tenant will return the paperwork.  A tenant can fill out an apartment condition statement from their iPhone!

Any damages included in this statement cannot be deducted from the tenant’s security deposit because they were already present before the tenant took over.

Deductions from the Security Deposit

A landlord is allowed to make certain deduction from the security deposit. These include unpaid bills, unpaid rent and damages (beyond normal wear and tear) which were not present when the tenants took occupancy. A landlord cannot deduct the security deposit for damages like the following:

  • Worn carpets from normal use
  • Paint that has faded due to sunlight or any other natural causes
  • Small holes in the walls from nails etc

Any damage that is a result of the tenant’s negligence is liable to be deducted from the security deposit. For example:

  • Wall paint without the landlord’s permission
  • Large holes in the walls that would cost the landlord for repairs
  • Damage caused by pets or any members of the household
  • Broken tiles, floors, windows, doors etc

Notify Tenant of Damage to Property

When a lease or agreement expires or is terminated by either party – landlord or tenant – it is a good practice that both parties go over the property together and make a list of any damages that could incur a deduction in the security deposit. 

After a notice has been given, a landlord is permitted to enter the premises to inspect it for the purpose of making this list. The landlord must provide this complete list to the tenant within 30 days with proof of the expenses that will be incurred on repairs.

You can take a look at some of our sample forms for landlords and tenants to learn more about the documentation involved when renting or leasing property. For any assistance or advice about managing your property in Boston, please contact BBA Management at 617-734-6900 or