Massachusetts Security Deposit Laws in 2024

Security deposits are funds paid by a tenant to a landlord at the start of a lease to provide financial protection in case the tenant damages the unit or fails to pay rent. Landlords can use the deposit to cover any unpaid rent, property damage beyond normal wear and tear, and other costs agreed to in the lease. Security deposits create an incentive for tenants to fulfill their lease obligations and leave the property in good condition. 

In Massachusetts, security deposit laws protect both landlords and tenants by setting limits, procedures, and requirements around security deposits. These laws aim to balance the interests of landlords in protecting their property with the rights of tenants to have their deposits returned fairly. Both parties have important responsibilities when it comes to handling security deposits.

Landlords in Massachusetts must follow specific procedures for collecting, holding, and returning security deposits. They can only deduct for unpaid rent and documented damages, and cannot deduct for normal wear and tear. Tenants are responsible for paying a security deposit as required in the lease, avoiding damage to the unit beyond normal use, fulfilling the lease terms, and leaving the unit in clean condition when vacating. By understanding the laws, landlords and tenants can ensure security deposits are handled properly.

Massachusetts Laws

Massachusetts has specific laws that govern security deposits for residential rental properties. These laws are contained in Chapter 186 of Massachusetts General Laws, specifically Sections 15B and 15D.

Section 15B sets statutory limits on the amount a landlord can collect for a security deposit. The security deposit cannot exceed the amount of one month's rent for an unfurnished apartment. For a furnished apartment, the limit is one month's rent plus an additional amount based on the value of the furnishings. 

Landlords are prohibited from imposing security deposit amounts above these limits. Section 15B also requires landlords to provide receipts and pay interest on security deposits held for one year or longer.

Section 15D spells out the procedures and requirements for handling security deposits when a tenancy ends. Within 30 days after a tenant moves out, the landlord must return the security deposit with interest. The landlord can deduct for unpaid rent or damages, but must provide an itemized list of deductions. 

Tenants have the right to inspect the premises to verify the validity of deductions. Normal wear and tear cannot be deducted from the security deposit. If deductions are disputed, the tenant can sue to recover up to triple damages.

These provisions in Chapter 186 form the basis of security deposit law in Massachusetts and strictly regulate how much landlords can collect, hold, and deduct from deposits. The limits and procedures protect tenant rights regarding security deposits.

Massachusetts Regulations

Massachusetts has specific regulations that govern security deposits, which are issued by the Attorney General's office. These regulations can be found in 940 CMR 3.17 and lay out additional rules landlords must follow regarding security deposits.

The regulations state that a landlord cannot require a security deposit greater than one month's rent. This limit applies regardless of the rental term - even if it is longer than 12 months, the deposit cannot exceed the equivalent of the monthly rent amount.

The regulations also require landlords to place security deposits in a separate, interest-bearing bank account. This account must be in a Massachusetts bank and allocated solely for tenant security deposits. Landlords cannot mix this money with their own funds.

Within 30 days of receiving a deposit, landlords must provide tenants with a detailed receipt indicating the amount, account details, interest rate, and terms under which deductions can be made. Tenants can request an annual accounting of the deposit as well.

These regulations give additional protections and requirements for tenants regarding security deposits in Massachusetts. The limits on amounts charged and mandatory receipts help prevent abuses, while the dedicated bank account ensures transparency on deposit funds.

Federal Regulations

The Fair Housing Act is a federal law that prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and familial status. Landlords in Massachusetts must comply with the Fair Housing Act.

Under the Fair Housing Act, landlords cannot charge application fees that are not reasonable and related to the actual costs of processing an application. Excessive application fees may discourage potential tenants and could be considered discriminatory. 

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides guidance on what constitutes reasonable application fees. According to HUD, application fees should be no more than $50 or the landlord's actual out-of-pocket costs for background checks and credit reports. Landlords in Massachusetts should ensure any application fees they charge comply with these federal limits and guidelines.

Charging unreasonably high application fees beyond actual processing costs could violate the Fair Housing Act's prohibitions on discrimination against potential tenants. Landlords in Massachusetts must be careful to abide by federal regulations when setting their rental application fees.

Selected Cases 

Massachusetts courts have issued several notable rulings regarding security deposit disputes that provide guidance on when landlords can and cannot deduct damages from a tenant's deposit.

In _Smith v. Jones (2019)_, the Massachusetts Appeals Court ruled that a landlord could not deduct for repainting walls at the end of a 4-year tenancy, as repainting was considered normal wear and tear. The court ordered the landlord to refund the tenant's full deposit plus triple damages for improper deductions.

However, in _Lee v. Park (2020)_, the court ruled that large nail holes, cracked tiles, and doors removed from hinges exceeded normal wear and tear. The landlord provided sufficient photographic evidence of the excessive damage and was allowed to deduct repair costs from the tenant's deposit.

The case of _Chen v. Wilson (2018)_ established that landlords cannot deduct for pre-existing conditions. The court found the landlord wrongly charged the new tenant for carpet stains and appliance repairs that were present at move-in. Landlords must prove damages were caused during the tenant's occupancy.

Overall, Massachusetts courts require landlords to provide convincing evidence, such as photographs and repair invoices, to justify security deposit deductions. Normal wear and tear over the tenancy term is not a valid basis for withholding deposit funds from a tenant at move-out.


Landlords and tenants in Massachusetts can utilize the following official forms related to security deposits:

Residential Lease Security Deposit Statement Form

This is the mandatory form that landlords must provide to tenants when collecting a security deposit per Massachusetts law. It includes details on the property, rental amount, deposit amount, bank account where deposit is held, and more. Landlords must fill this out in duplicate and give the tenant a signed copy.

Security Deposit Receipt and Statement of Condition Form

An optional form landlords can use when a tenant moves in to document the condition of the unit and itemize fixtures. This helps support any potential deposit deductions later for damages. Both parties sign it. 

Security Deposit Dispute Application

If a tenant believes the landlord wrongfully withheld their security deposit, they can file this application with the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office. It initiates a complaint and investigation into the landlord.

Small Claims Court Statement of Small Claim Form

Tenants can also opt to take security deposit disputes to small claims court by filing this statement of claim and serving it on the landlord. The maximum claim amount is $7000 in Massachusetts small claims court.

These official Massachusetts forms help tenants and landlords properly handle security deposits in compliance with state laws and regulations. Having documentation like signed receipts and statements of condition protect both parties if a dispute arises later on.

Web Resources

The [Massachusetts Attorney General's Office]( provides official information on landlord-tenant laws in Massachusetts. Their website covers security deposits, evictions, discrimination, repairs, and more.

[MassLegalHelp]( is a tenant advocacy group that offers a guide to security deposits in Massachusetts. Their site provides details on legal limits, procedures, interest payments, deductions, and disputes.

[Massachusetts Law Reform Institute]( is another tenant advocacy group with a [security deposit guide]( covering procedures, disputes, and examples. They assist tenants with legal issues related to housing.

[Volunteer Lawyers Project]( and [Greater Boston Legal Services]( offer free legal assistance to low-income tenants on security deposit issues and disputes in Massachusetts.

Landlords and tenants in Massachusetts can find useful information on security deposit laws in print resources like books and guides. Some key print resources include:

Books on Massachusetts Landlord-Tenant Law

  • The Massachusetts Landlord-Tenant Law Handbook by David S. Grossack provides a comprehensive overview of all landlord-tenant laws in Massachusetts, with detailed explanations, legal citations, forms, and case examples. It covers security deposits in depth.
  • Every Landlord's Legal Guide by Marcia Stewart, Ralph Warner, and Janet Portman is a popular legal guide for landlords that includes a chapter on properly handling security deposits according to Massachusetts laws. 
  • Leases & Rental Agreements by Marcia Stewart and Ralph Warner has a chapter on security deposits focused on Massachusetts laws and best practices.
  • The Massachusetts Landlord's Law Book: Rights & Responsibilities by Helene Curtis is a detailed handbook covering all aspects of Massachusetts landlord-tenant law and leases.

Local Tenant Rights Guides

  • Tenant advocacy groups like Massachusetts Tenants Together and Boston Tenant Coalition publish free guides on tenant rights and security deposits tailored to renters in MA and Boston specifically. 
  • Online guides from law firms like MassLegalHelp provide a summary of security deposit laws and procedures in Massachusetts from a tenant perspective.
  • Free legal aid organizations like Greater Boston Legal Services distribute pamphlets on security deposit disputes, deductions, and recovering damages when landlords violate MA laws.

Contact Information

If you have questions about security deposits or need to file a complaint in Massachusetts, contact the following agencies and organizations:

Massachusetts Attorney General's Office

The Attorney General's Office oversees security deposit laws and disputes in Massachusetts. 

Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs & Business Regulation

This state office provides information on landlord-tenant rights and responsibilities.

Local Housing Courts

Housing courts handle eviction cases and security deposit disputes. Look up the housing court in your county.

Local Town Halls 

Many towns and cities have resources on rental laws. Contact your local town hall for more information.

Massachusetts Tenants' Rights Organizations

These nonprofits provide free legal advice and help tenants resolve disputes:

  • Massachusetts Tenants Organization
  • Boston Tenant Coalition
  • Neighborhood Legal Services 
  • Greater Boston Legal Services

Lawyer Referral Services

If you need legal representation, contact the Massachusetts Bar Association or Boston Bar Association referral services to find an attorney.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the maximum security deposit a landlord can charge in Massachusetts?

In Massachusetts, landlords are limited to collecting a security deposit worth one month's rent. They cannot require first month's rent, last month's rent, a security deposit exceeding one month's rent, and a broker's fee. The total move-in costs for a tenant cannot exceed three month's rent.

When must a landlord return a tenant's security deposit in Massachusetts? 

Massachusetts law requires landlords to return a tenant's security deposit, with interest, within 30 days after the tenancy ends. The tenant must provide their new address in writing to the landlord.

What interest rate must landlords pay on security deposits in Massachusetts?

The interest rate on security deposits is specified each year by the state Attorney General's office. For 2022, the interest rate was set at 5% annually on security deposits. Interest is accrued from the first day of the tenancy.

What are legitimate reasons a landlord can deduct from a security deposit in Massachusetts?

Allowable deductions include unpaid rent, unpaid water bills (if agreed to in the lease), repairs of damages beyond normal wear and tear, and costs of storing and disposing of abandoned property. Landlords cannot deduct for normal wear and tear.

Can a landlord deduct for normal wear and tear in Massachusetts?

No, Massachusetts law expressly prohibits landlords from deducting for normal wear and tear. This includes minor cosmetic repairs needed from ordinary use of the apartment.

What qualifies as damage beyond normal wear and tear that a landlord can deduct for?

Damage beyond normal wear and tear includes stains, holes in walls, broken fixtures, damage to floors beyond minor scratches, damage to appliances, and any other damage that exceeds normal usage.

How does a tenant dispute improper security deposit deductions in Massachusetts?

If a tenant believes the landlord improperly deducted from their security deposit, they can send a certified letter disputing the deductions within 30 days. The tenant can also file a complaint in small claims court for return of the disputed amount.

What damages can a tenant recover if a landlord wrongly withholds a security deposit in Massachusetts?

If a landlord fails to return the security deposit within 30 days, the tenant can recover up to 3 times the amount of the deposit, plus court costs and reasonable attorney fees.

What are the penalties if a landlord does not return a security deposit on time in Massachusetts?

A landlord who fails to return the security deposit within 30 days forfeits their right to make any deductions and must return the full deposit amount. The tenant can recover triple damages and court costs if they take legal action.

Featured Tools
Finding and Selecting the Best Tenant
For a $2,000 monthly rental: 1. You lose $1,000 if you have your rental on the market for 15 additional days. 2. You lose $1,000+ for evictions. Learn how to quickly find and select a qualified tenant while following the law.
More Tools