Is there a law or statute of limitations regarding a landlord’s responsibilties for security deposits?

Additional Information:

My roommates and I moved out 10 months ago.  We recently received a letter from the landlord stating we owed $2500 and are forfeiting our entire security deposit for a total of $4000 to replace 10 year old carpets.  Can they do that?  Is there a statute of limitations, and what are the landlord’s legal responsibilities regarding security deposits?

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

If your landlord attempts to retain your security deposit, he will be in violation of M.G.L. c. 186 Sec. 15B (i.e. the Massachusetts Security Deposit Statute).  M.G.L. c. 186 Sec. 15B(4) requires a landlord, within thirty days after the termination of occupancy to return to the tenant the security deposit or any balance thereof; provided, however, that the landlord may deduct from the security deposit any unpaid rent, real estate taxes, or a reasonable amount to repair any damage to the premises. Ten months is too long and if your landlord does not return your security deposit upon demand, the landlord will be liable to you for three times the amount he should have returned, plus interest, costs, and reasonable attorney fees.
With regard to a landlord’s obligations upon taking a security deposit, M.G.L. c. 186 Sec. 15B provided four primary obligations: (1) the landlord must provide the tenant with a receipt for the security deposit, (2) the landlord must hold the funds in a separate interest bearing account; (3) the landlord must provide the tenant with a statement of condition; and (4) the landlord must maintain records of deposits and repairs.

A landlord who fails to comply with these provisions forfeits the right to continue to hold the deposit and in certain circumstances looses his right to counterclaim for damage to the premises in any suit brought by the tenant to recover the security. The landlord is also subject to triple damages, costs, interest, and attorneys fees if he fails to comply with the foregoing provisions and also fails to return the security deposit upon demand.

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