Landord/Security Deposit issues

Archived From: Finance
  • Go to page :
  • 1 2
  • Text Only
http://www.mass.gov/ocabr/docs/tenantsrights.pdf

BOOM!

You are entitled to the immediate return of your security deposit plus accrued interest if the landlord . . .
◗ Fails to make the security deposit records available for inspection during office hours; or
◗ Fails to deposit the security deposit into a separate, interest-bearing account in a Massachusetts bank; or
◗ Fails to provide you, within 30 days of receipt of the security deposit, a receipt with the name and location of the bank and the amount and account number of the deposit.
The landlord cannot keep any portion of your security deposit for any reason, including making deductions for damages, or counterclaim for any damage to the premises in a court action by you to recover a security deposit if the landlord . . .
◗ Uses a lease which contains provisions conflicting with the Security Deposit Law and attempts to enforce these provisions or attempts to get you to sign a waiver of rights; or
◗ Fails to deposit the security deposit into a separate, interest-bearing account in a Massachusetts bank; or
◗ Fails to transfer the security deposit or last month’s rent to the new landlord after the sale of the rental property; or
◗ Makes deductions for damages and fails to furnish you with an itemized list of damages within 30 days after termination of tenancy.
You may be entitled to three times the amount of the security deposit or the remaining balance to which you are entitled after lawful deductions with interest, plus court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees if the landlord . . .
◗ Fails to deposit the security deposit into a separate, interest-bearing account in a Massachusetts bank; or
◗ Fails to transfer the security deposit or last month’s rent to the new landlord after the sale of the rental property; or
◗ Fails to return the security deposit (or balance after lawful deductions) with interest within 30 days after termination of tenancy.
If the landlord fails to pay you any interest to which you are lawfully entitled (including interest on the security deposit and interest on the last month’s rent) within 30 days after termination of the tenancy, you may be entitled to three times the interest, plus court costs, and reasonable attorney’s fees.

I feel the OP is mostly in the right and clear, but I feel that most of the responses have been a hardcore "keep every penny you possibly can." I'm going to advocate that you don't be a stubborn mule because you could end up finding out you're wrong or recalling the situation differently than it really happened.

For example, when you went through the walk-through, does that limit the amount of damages you are responsible to? Is it clearly written in the contract that the walk-through is legally binding and is the final say for how much you will owe for damages? Or is it like a mechanic and only an estimate of what damages are found during the initial assessment? I can clearly see the landlord picking the upper hand if she has documents of you saying "yes, the dishwasher was clogged sometime during our stay" or has a third party coming in as a material witness saying "this is clearly tenant damage." Or perhaps your idea of clean is wiping everything down with a muddy rag, while her level of clean is using lysol on every inch, including behind the oven.

I'm not saying you're wrong, I'm not saying the landlord is wrong. I'm saying for you two to compromise now or risk it getting out of hand with lawsuits, masses of documents flying back and forth, etc. From the sounds of things, you should be paying the following:

Rug: dispute with "I understand that there was damage to the rug due to cleaning supplies. However, I should not pay for replacement cost since carpets are prorated for the life of the carpet. You state the rug is 6 years old, and the life of rugs are 7 years, so I will agree to 1/7 of the replacement charge or $215."

Dishwasher: dispute with "the dishwasher was clogging, but I contend it is not my fault. If you have a third party clearly showing I did something to clog the dishwasher, then I will agree to all charges. It seems like usual wear and tear, and I'd like to be reasonable, so I'm willing to pay $50."

Bathroom tiles: contend "bathroom tiles are also part of normal wear and tear and I am not responsible. If you believe I caused unreasonable damage, then I would like to see a third party saying how I damaged the tile. In addition, replacing 3 tiles should not cost $450, I think this is far too expensive and would like to see proof of expenses and proof of damage."

Cleaning fee: contend "we spent a lot of time cleaning the apartment, thoroughly cleaning everything. I understand our standard of cleanliness may not be the same or you may have noticed something we missed. I find the cleaning fee to be in excess and am willing to pay $50 otherwise, I'd like to see a copy of your cleaning estimate and would like to get my own estimate on getting the place professionally cleaned."

So your total bill will be around $315. Not quite the amount she was asking for, and not a perfect full deposit back, but it's a compromise. Also, note how in the responses, I did not admit to any guilt, but you are attempting to compromise with the situation. Realize neither of you are going to walk away from this completely happy, so you may as well bend a little to minimize the pain both of you are going to feel. If this does end up in court, then the judge will look through the documents, and if one party seems like a petty, stubborn mule, he/she will side with the party that shows he is not being a PITA.

ohmic314 said:   I feel the OP is mostly in the right and clear, but I feel that most of the responses have been a hardcore "keep every penny you possibly can." I'm going to advocate that you don't be a stubborn mule because you could end up finding out you're wrong or recalling the situation differently than it really happened.

For example, when you went through the walk-through, does that limit the amount of damages you are responsible to? Is it clearly written in the contract that the walk-through is legally binding and is the final say for how much you will owe for damages? Or is it like a mechanic and only an estimate of what damages are found during the initial assessment? I can clearly see the landlord picking the upper hand if she has documents of you saying "yes, the dishwasher was clogged sometime during our stay" or has a third party coming in as a material witness saying "this is clearly tenant damage." Or perhaps your idea of clean is wiping everything down with a muddy rag, while her level of clean is using lysol on every inch, including behind the oven.

I'm not saying you're wrong, I'm not saying the landlord is wrong. I'm saying for you two to compromise now or risk it getting out of hand with lawsuits, masses of documents flying back and forth, etc. From the sounds of things, you should be paying the following:

Rug: dispute with "I understand that there was damage to the rug due to cleaning supplies. However, I should not pay for replacement cost since carpets are prorated for the life of the carpet. You state the rug is 6 years old, and the life of rugs are 7 years, so I will agree to 1/7 of the replacement charge or $215."

Dishwasher: dispute with "the dishwasher was clogging, but I contend it is not my fault. If you have a third party clearly showing I did something to clog the dishwasher, then I will agree to all charges. It seems like usual wear and tear, and I'd like to be reasonable, so I'm willing to pay $50."

Bathroom tiles: contend "bathroom tiles are also part of normal wear and tear and I am not responsible. If you believe I caused unreasonable damage, then I would like to see a third party saying how I damaged the tile. In addition, replacing 3 tiles should not cost $450, I think this is far too expensive and would like to see proof of expenses and proof of damage."

Cleaning fee: contend "we spent a lot of time cleaning the apartment, thoroughly cleaning everything. I understand our standard of cleanliness may not be the same or you may have noticed something we missed. I find the cleaning fee to be in excess and am willing to pay $50 otherwise, I'd like to see a copy of your cleaning estimate and would like to get my own estimate on getting the place professionally cleaned."

So your total bill will be around $315. Not quite the amount she was asking for, and not a perfect full deposit back, but it's a compromise. Also, note how in the responses, I did not admit to any guilt, but you are attempting to compromise with the situation. Realize neither of you are going to walk away from this completely happy, so you may as well bend a little to minimize the pain both of you are going to feel. If this does end up in court, then the judge will look through the documents, and if one party seems like a petty, stubborn mule, he/she will side with the party that shows he is not being a PITA.


Judge asks why no damage was noted on walkthrough. If it was clearly a problem how would it not be discovered in an empty apartment? yes/ no?

ohmic314 said:   I feel the OP is mostly in the right and clear, but I feel that most of the responses have been a hardcore "keep every penny you possibly can." I'm going to advocate that you don't be a stubborn mule because you could end up finding out you're wrong or recalling the situation differently than it really happened.

For example, when you went through the walk-through, does that limit the amount of damages you are responsible to? Is it clearly written in the contract that the walk-through is legally binding and is the final say for how much you will owe for damages? Or is it like a mechanic and only an estimate of what damages are found during the initial assessment? I can clearly see the landlord picking the upper hand if she has documents of you saying "yes, the dishwasher was clogged sometime during our stay" or has a third party coming in as a material witness saying "this is clearly tenant damage." Or perhaps your idea of clean is wiping everything down with a muddy rag, while her level of clean is using lysol on every inch, including behind the oven.

I'm not saying you're wrong, I'm not saying the landlord is wrong. I'm saying for you two to compromise now or risk it getting out of hand with lawsuits, masses of documents flying back and forth, etc. From the sounds of things, you should be paying the following:

Rug: dispute with "I understand that there was damage to the rug due to cleaning supplies. However, I should not pay for replacement cost since carpets are prorated for the life of the carpet. You state the rug is 6 years old, and the life of rugs are 7 years, so I will agree to 1/7 of the replacement charge or $215."

Dishwasher: dispute with "the dishwasher was clogging, but I contend it is not my fault. If you have a third party clearly showing I did something to clog the dishwasher, then I will agree to all charges. It seems like usual wear and tear, and I'd like to be reasonable, so I'm willing to pay $50."

Bathroom tiles: contend "bathroom tiles are also part of normal wear and tear and I am not responsible. If you believe I caused unreasonable damage, then I would like to see a third party saying how I damaged the tile. In addition, replacing 3 tiles should not cost $450, I think this is far too expensive and would like to see proof of expenses and proof of damage."

Cleaning fee: contend "we spent a lot of time cleaning the apartment, thoroughly cleaning everything. I understand our standard of cleanliness may not be the same or you may have noticed something we missed. I find the cleaning fee to be in excess and am willing to pay $50 otherwise, I'd like to see a copy of your cleaning estimate and would like to get my own estimate on getting the place professionally cleaned."

So your total bill will be around $315. Not quite the amount she was asking for, and not a perfect full deposit back, but it's a compromise. Also, note how in the responses, I did not admit to any guilt, but you are attempting to compromise with the situation. Realize neither of you are going to walk away from this completely happy, so you may as well bend a little to minimize the pain both of you are going to feel. If this does end up in court, then the judge will look through the documents, and if one party seems like a petty, stubborn mule, he/she will side with the party that shows he is not being a PITA.
What is this talk about compromise?
There is no legal need to compromise.
Regardless of what the OP may or may not have said prior to the walk through, the walk through sheet is the final document that defines what the LL can claim.

It looks to me that you might be confusing common sense with the Law.
Perhaps you're suggesting that the OP be "reasonable", be a nice guy, allow the LL to ignore the Law and pay more than the Law requires him to pay.
The point your missing is that the state of MA has some very specific requirements that the LL must adhere to (some of which were posted previously in this thread).
These regulations do not allow for common sense, reasonableness, or being nice - they are the LAW.

Even if there was additional damage that the LL noticed after the walk through, the LL can not claim it.
Even if the LL is in a car accident and ends up in a coma and misses state mandated deadlines, it doesn't matter.
Even if the LL had the best of intentions and accidentally didn't dot her "i"s and cross her "t"s, it doesn't matter.

The LL had an opportunity during the walk through to note any items that needed repair or replacement.
The State of MA does not allow the LL a second chance.

The LL is not being reasonable and is not following the legal requirements.
The only thing the OP has to decide is whether he is going play hardball and really stick it to the LL (going for triple damages, court costs and legal fees), or if he is going to be more reasonable.

mikeres said:   ...
What is this talk about compromise?
There is no legal need to compromise.
Regardless of what the OP may or may not have said prior to the walk through, the walk through sheet is the final document that defines what the LL can claim.

It looks to me that you might be confusing common sense with the Law.
Perhaps you're suggesting that the OP be "reasonable", be a nice guy, allow the LL to ignore the Law and pay more than the Law requires him to pay.
The point your missing is that the state of MA has some very specific requirements that the LL must adhere to (some of which were posted previously in this thread).
These regulations do not allow for common sense, reasonableness, or being nice - they are the LAW.

Even if there was additional damage that the LL noticed after the walk through, the LL can not claim it.
Even if the LL is in a car accident and ends up in a coma and misses state mandated deadlines, it doesn't matter.
Even if the LL had the best of intentions and accidentally didn't dot her "i"s and cross her "t"s, it doesn't matter.

The LL had an opportunity during the walk through to note any items that needed repair or replacement.
The State of MA does not allow the LL a second chance.

The LL is not being reasonable and is not following the legal requirements.
The only thing the OP has to decide is whether he is going play hardball and really stick it to the LL (going for triple damages, court costs and legal fees), or if he is going to be more reasonable.



What does MA law say about the walkthrough being the final word and the only thing a landlord can charge??

Unless this is something specific to MA law then in general landlords CAN charge for damages found after a walkthrough if they give proper legal notice. The walkthrough is not the final/only word on what can / can't be charged. A clean walkthrough may be good evidence in a court case but its not final. If MA law says otherwise then thats fine, but I haven't seen any reference to that.

That may be dependent upon the formality of the walkthrough...signed doc vs no doc, wording....

The items in question besides the dishwasher are clearly noted as OK during the walkthrough. All three of us initialed each line item as well. I was under the assumption this document would be binding. I mean what is the point if the LL can just ignore it and say no sorry please pay me for items I said were fine after the fact? I also have an email from LL with Walkthrough attached saying Hope everything is well and asking where she can mail our deposit. This occurred a few days after walkthrough. About 2 days after that email I got the additional contact from her with the aggressive and rude email.

Your fine. Don't worry about it. When push comes to shove, give them a concise letter as to how they are in breach of the law. Cite the law and keep it minimal.

While it is possible that the landlord did fumble a bit with the security deposit, the 600/600 split may be reasonable (even though they are trying to screw you). The walk-through does show water damage, and you've admitted responsibility for the carpets (normally that would be 7 year depreciated, but the judge may rule otherwise that this wasn't normal wear and tear and was instead negligence on your part in failing to monitor your dog).

It is almost a given that there will be a cleaning fee after you move out of a lease....you can do a thorough pre-clean and lessen it, but you will almost always be charged something for cleaning....they will probably get something for cleaning. You are going to be the ones going in front of a judge telling how you let your dog piss on the rugs and explaining why there damaged paint and rotted cabinet wood.....the landlord will probably show up with her husband (in uniform) with pictures of the rug/water damaged cabinet/food stains/and a couple spots of dirt. You will have the final walk-through and they will claim that it was not final until you were entirely moved out at which time they noticed more damage.

Also, replacing 3 tiles should not cost $450.....if you can get the tiles. If not, it is easily a $450 repair. Ditto for the $20 blinds.....$20 blinds still cost $50 each to trim/level and install and the $20/gallon paint doesn't magically put itself on the walls.

Unless your final walk-through states that this is really final, I'd probably take the 600/600 split.

Stanley124 said:   The items in question besides the dishwasher are clearly noted as OK during the walkthrough. All three of us initialed each line item as well. I was under the assumption this document would be binding. I mean what is the point if the LL can just ignore it and say no sorry please pay me for items I said were fine after the fact? I also have an email from LL with Walkthrough attached saying Hope everything is well and asking where she can mail our deposit. This occurred a few days after walkthrough. About 2 days after that email I got the additional contact from her with the aggressive and rude email.

Generally the walkthrough isn't a legally binding final decision. The law doesn't require it to be so as far as I've seen. That may seem odd, and you do the walkthrough and think you're done. But if the landlord finds something after the fact and they need to charge you then they can do so as long as they itemize the charges in the legally required time period. What if the landlord missed something are they supposed to be SOL?? How do they itemize charges duruing a walkthrough? Its just an inspection, its not the final word.
If the walkthrough has language that says its final then thats another thing.

A good landlord won't jerk you around like this. A walkthrough *should* be the end of it. But its not the legal requirement (someone point me to law if I'm wrong)

But the fact that you do have a walkthrough will help your argument in court. You can point to it and say that everything was cool and the landlord initialed it.

It may all be a moot point as MA law appears to require that you get your full security deposit back if the landlord mishandled the security deposit. But you may have to sue for that.

jerosen said:   Generally the walkthrough isn't a legally binding final decision. The law doesn't require it to be so as far as I've seen. That may seem odd, and you do the walkthrough and think you're done. But if the landlord finds something after the fact and they need to charge you then they can do so as long as they itemize the charges in the legally required time period. What if the landlord missed something are they supposed to be SOL?? How do they itemize charges duruing a walkthrough? Its just an inspection, its not the final word.
If the walkthrough has language that says its final then thats another thing.

A good landlord won't jerk you around like this. A walkthrough *should* be the end of it. But its not the legal requirement (someone point me to law if I'm wrong)

But the fact that you do have a walkthrough will help your argument in court. You can point to it and say that everything was cool and the landlord initialed it.

It may all be a moot point as MA law appears to require that you get your full security deposit back if the landlord mishandled the security deposit. But you may have to sue for that.


I'm a landlord in MA and am not familiar with any walkthrough laws. The law regarding the security deposit basically says that it should be returned in a reasonable amount of time and the courts have determined that within 30 days is a reasonable amount of time. If there are damages and they are deducted, it has to be itemized. I also typically don't do walkthroughs with tenants, if you do, what typically happens is that you find damage after the fact that you might not notice right away when you see the unit, but you only notice it when you start working on the place. The OP still didn't answer one of my original questions which was whether there was an apartment condition statement prior to move in. If not, it makes it very difficult to deduct for damages as the tenant can claim they were pre-existing. Only other way around it would probably be to take pictures before the tenant moved in. Many landlords don't bother with the security deposit because of the dangers of triple damages plus attorney fees, it's probably simpler to sue in small claims.

The apartment condition statement is the same form which we have for the final walkthrough. there is a 2 page checklist where any prior damage is noted. On the day of moveout we did the walkthrough in an empty apartment and everything was noted as OK besides some drawers and paint marks.

Stanley124 said:   The apartment condition statement is the same form which we have for the final walkthrough. there is a 2 page checklist where any prior damage is noted. On the day of moveout we did the walkthrough in an empty apartment and everything was noted as OK besides some drawers and paint marks.

Isn't the point of doing a final walkthrough to protect you in case later the landlord changes their mind? You've got, in writing, that items are "OK". With the laws written the way they are, most courts bend over backwards to protect tenants.

IF, the landlord was stupid enough to try to sue, you are covered, IN WRITING, that everything was "OK".

Remember that the landlord doesn't want to go to court either. They have to spend their resources (time and money) to try to recoup their "loses".

If they were to call again, I would say that you had an agreement in writing (checkout form) about what damages were. You do not agree to any further changes/charges to the agreement. You expect to receive your security deposit in a timely manner according to state law. IF you do not receive your security deposit, then you will look into using any/all legal resources available to recoup your security deposit.

Just because they felt socially awkward during the final walk through to point out damages is NOT an excuse. I know I'm probably rehashing what others have said, but this is the outside perspective looking in. Good luck.

FYI, the link I submitted above also includes resources for assistance in the matter at the bottom of the PDF. You can get free counseling/legal advise (from actual non-internet people) to help you figure out how to protect yourself.

When I was doing long term contracts and living in apartments (furnished and not) from individuals I *always* had it professionally cleaned by a local company and left a copy of the reciept for the LL. The first time I had it steam cleaned too, then after that I just make a point to determine whether or not the LL routinely steamcleans carpets between tenants. (almost all do it anyway -- and its not a chargable item)

Last apartment I moved out of I had professionally cleaned and had one small room where the carpet was stained. They quoted me a reasonable price to fix it IF their steam cleaner couldn't treat it out. If they treated it out then I just had to pay the fee for that service. In the end it was less than $50. I think one reason they were so reasonable about it was the immaculate apartment otherwise.

The thing about using a local pro is that if they call you a week later and you are 5 states away all you do is tell them to call the cleaning company to complain about their work.

Hey guys. Just putting in an update to this as I have been busy with work.

We received a check for $400 of our security deposit via certified letter within 30 days of moving out. The LL has listed a page full of damage totaling almost $2000. She has only withed the $800 she originally said for the tiles,dishwasher, and cleaning fee. I have not been able to locate anything that I can go after her for 3x deposit. Should I just consult a lawyer? or just file the $40 in small claims and go after the 800$ alone?

Go after more than $800. If the landlord is withholding more than agreed upon, in writing, during the walk through then it's case closed. You'll be able to get more in damages due to their shoddy tactics than just the remainder of the security deposit back.

If you want to settle out of court, make sure you do your research and write them a letter and mail it certified. This letter should state, with citations, why you are entitled to $X,XXX and also $X,XXX for additional damages under X, Y, Z law. If they do not agree, then file the small claims suit and consult a lawyer.

Sorry, I really only know NYS tenant laws, but I'm sure MA is similar in certain aspects. Don't settle on just the remainder. They crossed the line and they should not be able to get away scott-free.

That's the thing. I don't see anywhere in MA laws that will give me x3. I want to sue them for as much as possibly for being pricks though.

I'm not trying to be a butt head. But if you read the pdf linked earlier about MA tenant laws (as I am now) there are big bold letters about the triple damages part...

Stanley124 said:   That's the thing. I don't see anywhere in MA laws that will give me x3. I want to sue them for as much as possibly for being pricks though.

I think the security deposit laws allow for UP to 3x damages. However I think in this case where it's a difference of opinion over what's normal wear and tear, you probably won't get 3x awarded by a judge but would probably just get your money back. You could also sue under Chapter 93A which covers unfair and deceptive business practices and that also allows for 3x damages.



Disclaimer: By providing links to other sites, FatWallet.com does not guarantee, approve or endorse the information or products available at these sites, nor does a link indicate any association with or endorsement by the linked site to FatWallet.com.

Thanks for visiting FatWallet.com. Join for free to remove this ad.

TRUSTe online privacy certification

While FatWallet makes every effort to post correct information, offers are subject to change without notice.
Some exclusions may apply based upon merchant policies.
© 1999-2014

It's time for an upgrade!

After a decade on our current platform, we're upgrading our plumbing. The site will be down for a few hours starting at 10PM CST tonight.

At FatWallet we strive to bring you the best coupons, deals and Cash Back. So please come back and check us out.