Finances, Housing Advice, JumpOffCampus, Renting, Student Life

Get interest (AKA beer money) back on your security deposit!

Quick description: As a tenant, you’re entitled to interest paid on your deposits to your landlord. 

Why should I care?

As a renter, you probably had to put down a security deposit, right? And maybe last month’s rent, too. So that sucks. But you know what doesn’t suck? Beer. Burritos. And, uhm, books.

So good news: In Massachusetts, you’re entitled to get up to 5% interest on your deposits to your landlord. It’s all thanks to good old Chapter 186, Section 15B of Massachusetts general law.

In plain English

Here’s how it works, without the legal mumbo jumbo (sorry, pre-law geeks):

  • You give your landlord a deposit for last month’s rent and/or security deposit
  • At the end of the rental year, you get back the interest earned (because it’s like the deposit is still your money)
  • Interest can equal up to 5% of the total, or whatever the interest rate is at the bank where your landlord  deposited the money

For instance, if you ponied up $800 in last month’s rent, at the end of the year your slumlord is supposed to cut you a check. Assuming your landlord’s bank pays out 1% interest, that’s $8 you get back. AKA a free lunch. Or 20 lunches, if you count ramen.

Courses of action

What if your landlord doesn’t pay up within 30 days at the end of the year? You have a few options:

  • If you’re staying on as a tenant, you can deduct the amount from your next month’s rent.
  • If you’re done as a tenant, you get 3x the interest earned, plus court costs and attorney fees.

What to keep in mind

At the end of each rental year, keep a lookout for an interest check from your landlord. Or you could be missing out on a little extra cash that’s rightfully yours.

 

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Renting

Protecting Your Security Deposit

When you’re renting, one of your biggest concerns should be ensuring that you protect your security deposit.  This is because you not only want to get back your full security deposit, but you also want to maintain a good relationship with your landlord.  To do this you will have to keep track of any current damage when you move in and ensure that you don’t cause any damage while you’re renting.

The first thing to do when you move in, before you even start unpacking, is to document the current state of the unit.  It is a good idea to go through a checklist of any existing damage with your landlord, if you can.  It’s a good idea to go through the apartment as thoroughly as you possibly can, so you won’t get the blame for damage that may already have been there.  It’s also a really good idea to take a photo or video of the current state of the apartment when you move in.  Any damage you find upon your move-in is something worth documenting visually with a timestamp.

If you find any major problems with your apartment upon your move-in, you should let your landlord know right away.  This could include any type of leak, breakages, major damage, and infestations.  You should also let your landlord know if the conditions of the apartment are unacceptable upon your move-in, i.e. the cleanliness of the apartment is unacceptable or the apartment is not up to code.  You should check your state’s requirements on these codes to see what is necessary for your apartment.

While you’re living in your apartment, you should also make a note of any damage you see that you may have missed in your first walk through.  You should also let your landlord know right away if you cause any damage to the apartment.  It’s best just to own up to your mistake; your landlord will be more understanding if you tell them right away.

Working to protect your security deposit should be one of your main goals while your living in your apartment.   While your landlord cannot charge you for normal wear-and-tear, you should document the condition of your apartment upon moving in, including documenting with timestamped videos and/or photos.  It’s also a good idea to do this with your landlord, if you can, so they are aware of the current condition of the apartment.  Be sure to let your landlord know if the condition of the apartment is unacceptable and/or not up to code.  It is in these ways that you can ensure you get your full security deposit back and that you maintain a good relationship with your landlord.

References:

“Helping You Protect Your Security Deposit” from UMass Amherst Off Campus Student Services 

“How to Get Your Security Deposit Back” from Pine Tree Legal Assistance

 

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