Landlord/Tenant Security Deposit Law Update

Mark Lichtenstein Mark Lichtenstein, Uncategorized

Summary Process (Eviction) Statute

The Massachusetts Security Deposit statute first enacted in 1969 is very complex and requires a landlord to follow certain specific steps to protect the tenants’ interests. One such step has recently been clarified. The summary process (eviction) statute specifies that a tenant, facing eviction in a summary process action for either non-payment of rent or because the tenancy is terminated without fault of the tenant, may raise by defense or counterclaims in the proceeding any claim against the landlord relating to the property or tenancy for breach of warranty, breach of the lease or for any other violation of law.

Landlord Violation of Security Deposit Law

In the recent case of Meikle vs. Nurse, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that where the landlord has violated the security deposit law, not only can the tenant recover damages for the violation, but that violation can be used as a defense to the claim by the landlord for possession of the property. The court stated that:

“our cases involving the security deposit statute demonstrates its importance in the scheme of protection afforded a tenant.”

Understanding Security Deposit Law

In summary, a landlord who receives a security deposit from a tenant must do specific things to protect the deposit for the tenant and if the landlord does not he may not in the first instance be able to evict the tenant. Both parties, the landlord and tenant, should understand their rights by obtaining legal representation.

About the Author

Attorney Mark Lichtenstein is a founding partner of Kerstein, Coren & Lichtenstein, LLP, Chair of the Real Estate Practice Group, and a member of the Estate Planning, Probate, Elder Law and Taxation Practice Group.

You can reach Attorney Lichtenstein at 617-964-9393 or at