Boston Student Apartment Security Deposit Law

Every year, over 45,000 students rent apartments in Boston. With such a massive number of students in need of housing, large property management companies have little trouble finding tenants to fill their buildings. Companies like The Hamilton Company and Alpha Management dominate the Allston, Brighton and Fenway real estate markets, due, in large part, to the constant supply of students in need of off-campus housing. A more complete list of large landlords in the Boston area is below. To regulate the market and level the playing field between these big companies and the students seeking housing, Massachusetts has strict landlord-tenant laws.

Chief among these laws are rules relating to security deposits. The Massachusetts security deposit law, M.G.L. c. 186, § 15B covers the amount and types of fees landlords can charge tenants, and how landlords must hold and account for security deposits.

    • Illegal fees: landlords can only charge you first month’s rent, last month’s rent, and a security deposit. All other fees are illegal. Common illegal fees include pet fees, holding deposits, fees for credit checks, cleaning fees, or application fees.
    • Amount of security deposit: The security deposit cannot be more than the first month’s rent. If your rent increases over the course of your lease, the landlord cannot ask you for an additional security deposit.
    • Holding of security deposit: Landlords must follow strict rules governing how they hold your security deposit during your lease period. They must:
      • Give you a receipt when you pay your security deposit;
      • Give you a statement that describes the condition of your apartment within ten days of receiving your security deposit;
      • Give you another receipt when the landlord deposits the security deposit into the bank, which must include the same and location of the bank and the account number;
      • Keep your security deposit in an interest-bearing bank account that is separate from their personal bank account and is protected from creditors;
      • Pay you interest every year on your security deposit and your last month’s rent payment and provide you with a statement detailing the interest that has accrued on your security deposit and on your last month’s rent payment;
      • Keep a record of your security deposit and any repairs to your apartment/house; and
      • Provide you with a list of deductions taken from your security deposit within 30 days of moving out of your apartment.

Failure to do any of the above is a violation of the security deposit law. The most common violations committed by landlords are failure to put security deposits in a separate bank account, and failure to pay tenants interest on their security deposits.

A security deposit must be kept in a separate account protected from creditors. An account is “protected from creditors” if it cannot be seized for the landlord’s debts or financial troubles. For example, if your landlord files for bankruptcy during your lease period, anyone your landlord owes money too will not be able to take your security deposit. If your landlord fails to put your security deposit in a separate account protected from creditors, you are entitled to three times the amount of your security deposit.

Tenants are also entitled to interest on a security deposit. This is because the security deposit is not the landlord’s money. It is the tenant’s money until the landlord needs to use it to repair something the tenant or a guest breaks in the apartment, or to make up for unpaid rent. If you had that money in your bank account, it would be earning interest. Thus, you are entitled to the interest that accrues on the money while it’s in the landlord’s security deposit account. Tenants should get 5% interest on their security deposit each year, unless the landlord’s bank pays less than 5% interest, in which case the tenant gets only the interest actually earned on the deposit. The landlord must pay this interest to you every year, and within 30 days of your move out date.

If your landlord does not pay you interest on your security deposit and/or your last month’s rent within 30 days of your move out date, you are entitled to three times the amount of interest owed. And, under the law, if you win a lawsuit against the landlord for unpaid interest, the landlord has to pay the court costs and your attorney’s fees.  A class action lawsuit may also be possible.

If your landlord fails to return your security deposit at all within 30 days of your move out date, you can also sue for three times the amount of the security deposit.

Lastly, landlords may try to circumvent these rules by including in their leases provisions that contradict these rights. By signing a lease that seems to allow a landlord to violate these rules, you do not actually forfeit any of your rights. And, if the lease violates the security deposit law specifically, you can get your security deposit back on demand.

If you believe your landlord or property management company has violated any aspect of the security deposit law, call us at 617-338-9400 to discuss your options.

Here is a list of some of the large landlords in the Boston area:

  • The Hamilton Company
  • Alpha Management Company
  • The Samia Companies
  • GTI Properties
  • A&S Realty, Inc.
  • Fenway Properties
  • Premier Property Solutions
  • Heath Properties
  • Oxford Street Realty
  • Delphi Properties
  • Octagon Properties
  • The Mount Vernon Company
  • Urban Property Management
  • Greater Boston Properties
  • Advantage Property Management
  • CW Management
  • Rolls Realty
  • Amber Property Management
  • Sun Property Group
  • Blackstone Williams Properties
  • Avery Associates
  • Nordblom Company
  • At Home Real Estate Group
  • Boston Realty Works
  • Barkan Management Company
  • Boston Property Services, LLC
  • Bozzuto
  • Core Property Groups
  • Federal Management Company
  • Copley Group
  • Certified Property Management
  • Capital Realty Associates
  • Great North Property Management
  • Kunevich & Lau Realty
  • Rotenberg Management Company
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