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MDLawyer, Lawyer
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Satisfied Customers: 6133
Experience:  10 years in legal practice. Over 5 years in advising clients on landlord/tenant issues, including on a pro bono basis.
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I have been renting a home since 2008. At the time of my

Customer Question

I have been renting a home since 2008. At the time of my occupancy, I paid a security deposit, however, a year later the landlord and I had a written agreement that my security deposit was to be used towards rent. This was in 2009. I moved out in 2015.
I cannot recall if he every gave me the interest earned on my security deposit from 2008 to 2009. Can I sue him for treble damages?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Expert:  MDLawyer replied 1 year ago.

Hello and thank you for using the Just Answer website. I look forward to assisting you. In what state were you living? When you say that you had an agreement to use it towards rent, do you mean that you wanted it used for a rent payment that was due in 2009 and it was applied to that payment?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
No. I rented a certain portion of the house and a year later, the entire house was available. I added more square footage to my rental area and in exchange, my landlord agreed to keep the security deposit as one year's additional rent.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
The one year's additional rent was for the additional square footage, only.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Is anyone out there?
Expert:  MDLawyer replied 1 year ago.

Hello. Sorry, my email notifications must not have been working yesterday because I didn't receive a notification until early this morning via email.

Just to make sure that I understand, are you saying that you asked that they use the security deposit for an entire year's additional rent for that extra square footage and this was back in 2009?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Expert:  MDLawyer replied 1 year ago.

When in 2009 did you make the agreement to apply the security deposit to the extra rent?

Expert:  MDLawyer replied 1 year ago.

Please let me know if you are still in need of help. If yes, I need to know when in 2009 the agreement was made and then I can give you a proper answer. Thank you so much.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
The initial lease term ran from 12/15/08 to 12/15/09. The landlord signed the release of security deposit on 12/19/09 and I signed it on 1/1/2010. Can I sue him in 2015 if he did not properly segregate the funds in 2008-2009 lease term?
Expert:  MDLawyer replied 1 year ago.

The statute of limitations for bringing legal action on a contract case is 6 years in MA and so you have a short amount of time to sue if that is what you wish to do. However, the remedy for failing to deposit a security deposit into an escrow account is to return the security deposit to the tenant and since the security deposit was technically returned to you in 2009 when you agreed to use it for rent, you have nothing to demand from the court.

See, e.g. Castenholz v. Caira:

"The relevant portions of subsection (3) (a) state that "[a]ny security deposit received by the [the landlord] shall be held in a separate, interest-bearing account in a bank . . . . A receipt shall be given to the tenant within thirty days after such deposit is received by the [landlord] which receipt shall indicate . . . the bank . . . the amount and account number of said deposit. Failure to comply with this paragraph [i.e., par. (a)] shall entitle the tenant to immediate return of the security deposit." Subsection (3) (a) thus imposes two duties on the landlord: first, to establish the escrow account, and, second, to furnish the tenant with a conforming receipt, both within a thirty-day period measured from receipt of the security deposit. Failure to conform with either duty represents a failure to comply with the paragraph and thus entitles the tenant to "immediate return of the security deposit." "

Now, if the security deposit had not yet been returned to you, then you would have the right to sue for the interest and treble damages and attorney's fees under the MA statute.

Please let me know if this has answered your question. If it has, please be so kind as to leave a positive rating as that is the only way that we experts get credited for the time spent assisting you since we are not Just Answer employees. If, however, you need additional information, please simply let me know by replying back to me. Thank you in advance!

Expert:  MDLawyer replied 1 year ago.

Hello. Can you let me know if you received my answer? Thank you. Let me know if you need anything else.