Massachusetts Security Deposit Laws

In Massachusetts, security deposits cannot total more than one month’s rent. Click here to learn more.
Written by Nick Kunze
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
security deposit is a refundable payment to a landlord upon signing a rental lease. As per state law, the security deposit cannot cost more than one month’s rent and must be returned within 30 days or less after the end of the lease.
Handing over a security deposit can be frustrating—it’s a large payment that you won’t see again until you’re done with your rental. On top of that, some landlords seem to make getting your security deposit back nothing short of a nightmare.
To stay in the know about how security deposits work in the Old Colony State, check out this guide created by car and
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What is Massachusetts law on security deposits?

In Massachusetts, security deposits are non-refundable deposits paid by the tenant to the property owner. A security deposit is used to secure your lease and protect the building owner from losses related to property damage or a tenant breaking the terms of their lease.
You can expect to receive your security deposit back at the end of your lease, assuming you didn’t break your contract in any way. 
The Massachusetts legislative branch breaks down the laws surrounding security deposits in
section 15B
of the general laws.

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

In Massachusetts, landlords are not allowed to charge more than one month’s rent for a security deposit.
However, they can collect the first and last month’s rent when you sign your lease, meaning you’ll potentially need three months’ rent on hand when signing your contract. 

How long does a landlord have to return a security deposit in Massachusetts? 

Massachusetts landlords must return security deposits within 30 days of the end of the lease. This means that you should have your security deposit back in your pocket within a month of moving out.

What can a landlord withhold a security deposit for in Massachusetts?

Landlords are legally allowed to deduct money from your security deposit for certain reasons, namely breaching your lease contract. 
In Massachusetts, you may lose part of your security deposit due to:
  • Unpaid rent or water charges
  • An unpaid increase in real estate taxes
  • Damages to the rental unit, excluding normal wear and tear
For damages to the unit, the deduction must be a ‘reasonable amount necessary to repair.’ This means your landlord can take some of your deposit to pay for destruction (like holes in the wall) or damage caused by neglect. For example, if you failed to report drainage issues that ended up causing water damage, the cost of repairs can be taken out of your security deposit. 
You will receive an itemized list of deductions if you don’t get your full security deposit returned. It is illegal to withhold any of the security deposit without proper documentation explaining why.
Key Takeaway While security deposits are refundable, you may lose part or all of yours if you cause damage to the unit or break the rules of your lease. 

How to get your security deposit back in Massachusetts

Hopefully, getting your security deposit back will be easy—your landlord should cut you a check and you can move on. However, here’s what to do if you haven’t received your deposit in a timely manner.
First, reach out to your landlord in writing (this will be helpful if you need to go to court over the deposit). The landlord may have sent the money to the wrong address or simply forgotten. Hopefully, a written request will get you your deposit back.
If your landlord is unresponsive or refuses to return the deposit, you can go to
small claims court
. This will cost you time and money, but it may be necessary to get your money back, especially if your finances would suffer without your security deposit back in your hands.

How to save money on car and renters insurance in Massachusetts

Another consideration when renting in Massachusetts is protecting your property with renters insurance. A good renters insurance policy will help pay for the cost of repairs that your landlord won’t cover, such as fire damage or items destroyed in a burglary.
If you want help finding an affordable
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You likely cannot use your security deposit as your last month’s rent unless your landlord agrees to it. Landlords can collect last month’s rent upfront, however, so you may have already paid your last month when you signed your lease.
A landlord cannot charge for routine carpet cleaning. In fact, landlords in Massachusetts are not allowed to charge any type of cleaning fee.
However, you may be charged if you damaged your unit’s carpet beyond what is to be expected from normal wear and tear.
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