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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    2

    Default Need Advice to Recover Security Deposit

    On July 18th, my family moved out of a condo that had been rented to us for the past year. About one week later, we received a statement from our landlord that she would be keeping all of our ~$1300 security deposit plus interest (demanding an additional $500) to pay for repairs and rent due.

    The rent due is ours to pay, for we did move out later than expected, though these are the items with which we're rather unhappy to be charged:

    1) A wall to wall carpet replacement at a cost of $450. This is because, according to her, there was adhesive from duct tape on a small portion of this carpet. I called a local hardware store and found that this adhesive could be removed with a $3.00 bottle of citrus-based cleaner. Having tested this product out on similar test carpets that had been positively abused with duct tape, I'm certain that this substance is effective.

    2) Removal and cleaning of another wall to wall carpet to remove pet urine. We do have cats, though this smell was *quite* pungent and present the very day we moved in-- it's not from our pets. After repeated treatment and the decline of the humidity and heat of last summer, we managed to live with it, and only recently has the odor resurfaced. This is another few hundred dollars.

    3) Mold present in the upstairs and downstairs bathrooms apparently require that will, again, cost a few hundred dollars. This mold did develop during our tenancy, though because these bathrooms are centrally positioned in the condo, they rely entirely on ventilation systems (cheap, ceiling-mounted fans and airshafts) to prevent excessive moisture buildup during showers. Furthermore, as per correspondence from the condo association, we've found that water damage from shoddy roofing work is common in these units. Scrubbing with bleach did not do much to deter this mold; it was clearly in the ceilings and walls. I suspect this to be due to the ventilation system. During a walk-through toward the end of our tenancy, the landlord remarked that she would "definitely need stronger fans" for this system.

    4) A swinging, wood-framed screen for a ceiling-mounted window on the top floor broke during our tenancy. This was installed after we'd moved in, and only after repeated demands on our part. The landlord wishes to charge us $310 for its replacement. This screen, even brand new, was exceptionally shoddy in quality and broke during normal use. To claim its value to be $310 is laughable; it is barely of the quality one would expect from a junior high school woodshop student.

    We never received a statement of condition from this woman. We've tried to work with her during our tenancy; we gave her *very* much leeway in time to repair the oven that, even prior to our moving in, did not function. This sort of laissez-faire attitude toward persuing resolution of some problems might jeopardize our ability to retrieve the deposit through court.

    Might someone be able to help me out? Where can I go from here to retrieve some or all of what is owed to us?

    Thanks,
    Max

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Michigan
    Posts
    28,650

    Default Massachusetts Law of Damage Deposits

    Under Massachusetts law, a landlord must return your security deposit (or balance thereof) within 30 days after the termination of tenancy. Upon accepting a security deposit, the landlord must:

    1. Provide a signed receipt to the tenant, which provides the landlord's name, a description of the leased premises, the amount of the deposit, and the name and location of the bank in which the money has been deposited;

    2. Provide a statement of present condition of the rented premises, signed by the landlord, and including statutory notices to the tenant including the requirement that the tenant has 15 days from receipt to respond to the list with proposed corrections. The statement of condition must contain a comprehensive listing of any damage existing in the premises.

    3. Deposit the money from the security deposit into a separate, interest-bearing account in a bank within Massachusetts; and

    4. Maintain the proper records.

    The landlord may deduct only for the following:

    1. Any unpaid rent which has not been withheld validly or deducted in accordance with the law;

    2. Any unpaid increase in real estate taxes if the tenant was obligated to pay those taxes under a valid tax escalator clause in the lease; and

    3. A reasonable amount necessary to repair any damage caused by the tenant, any person under the control of the tenant, or any person on the premises with the consent of the tenant. Damage caused by pets may also be deducted. The tenant does not have to pay for ordinary wear and tear associated with normal use.

    If the landlord asserts that the premises were damaged by the tenant, the landlord must provide the tenant with a detailed list of damages and the repairs necessitated by those damages within thirty days after the tenancy ends. The landlord or landlord's agent must swear to the accuracy of the list under the pains and penalties of perjury. The landlord or landlord's agent must also provide the tenant with written evidence indicating the actual or estimated cost of the repairs, such as estimates, bills, invoices, or receipts.

    The tenant is entitled to the immediate return of a Massachusetts security deposit if the landlord:

    1. Fails to make the security deposit records available for inspection during office hours;

    2. Fails to provide the tenant, within 30 days of receipt of the security deposit, with a receipt with the name and location of the bank and the amount and account number of the deposit;

    3. Makes deductions for damages yet fails to furnish the tenant with an itemized list of damages within thirty days after termination of tenancy; or

    4. Uses a lease agreement which contain provisions conflicting with the security deposit law and either attempts to enforce the unlawful provisions or attempts to get the tenant to sign a waiver of rights.

    Under the four listed circumstances, the landlord cannot keep a tenant's security deposit for any reason, including making deductions for damages.

    Failure by the landlord:

    1. To deposit the security deposit into a bank account;

    2. To return the security deposit (or balance after lawful deductions) to the tenant with interest within 30 days after termination of tenancy; or

    3. To transfer the security deposit or last month’s rent to a new landlord in the event that the premises are sold;

    Will entitle the tenant to the immediate return of the security deposit and triple damages, plus court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees. Where the landlord has also held the "last month's rent", the tenant is also are entitled to triple damages, court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees if the landlord fails to pay interest on the last month’s rent within thirty days after termination of tenancy.

    If the landlord failed to comply with the law, you may wish to consider a small claims action to recover the deposit and any damages that may be due.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    2

    Default

    Thank you for the quick reply.

    What I'm worried about, now, is that following the return of the deposit, she will sue for these "repairs." It seems that, in order to sell her condo, she wants to make the unit near-perfect in quality at no cost to herself.

    Is using the lack of a statement of conditions or, as I now recall, a receipt for the security deposit, a viable defense? She produced neither of these documents to us at any time during our residency. She could not, therefore, claim damages, correct? The more I think of ways to defend this on an item by item basis, the more I think of ways I could be 'maybe'd' or hairsplit out of the deposit.

    -Max

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Michigan
    Posts
    28,650

    Default Security Deposit Records

    The laws suggest that her failure to maintain proper records would entitle you to return of the entire deposit. One way or another, unfortunately, based upon what you are saying it sounds like this matter is headed to small claims court.

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