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 says/she says 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.