In the case Meikle v. Nurse, The court ruled that landlords cannot evict a tenant unless they have followed the Security Deposit law 100% TO THE LETTER. Landlords argued that Security Deposit violations are only counterclaims (for money) and not defenses (preventing evictions). Although I understand their sentiment, the first sentence of MGL 239, 8A says that any claim can be used as defenses against eviction in cases of non-payment of rent or no-cause. As a general rule of thumb and especially as a new landlord, avoid evicting for “non-payment” or for “no-cause” and try to evict “for-cause” which at least prevents the tenant from raising the habitational defenses.
Documentation is EVERYTHING when you are a landlord.
- ALWAYS deposit your security deposit into an interest bearing account. Simply go to the bank and ask for a landlord/tenant account. Failure to do this will result in a fine of 3x amount collected. Save yourself the financial burden. If you are not disciplined, do not collect a security deposit.
- ALWAYS provide a receipt for collection of security deposit. If you do not document, the tenant can state any reason because you did not provide any paper trail.
- Have tenants do a walk through and sign an apartment condition form.
- Have tenants pay rent electronically, this way, there is no he say/she say as to why rent is late (lost in the mail excuse gone)
- Communicate with tenant via email or text only. Email or certified mail is best and always have them acknowledge receipt. I would venture to request a read receipt for emails.
- Always confirm and reconfirm appointments for work done to units with tenants and take pictures.
To read more on security deposits or what your rights as a tenant or landlord are please click here.
Being a landlord is a job, more specifically, it is a business that has endless growth potential if done correctly. If done incorrectly, it can be a huge financial and emotional burden. In a highly concentrated market such as Boston, with neighborhoods in high demand such as Roxbury, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain… It is crucial for landlords to understand the law.
If you need assistance screening tenants, completing the process and applicable paperwork, please contact us and we would be happy to walk you through the process.
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