If you’re in the process of looking to rent out an apartment or home, you should be familiar with how security deposits work. The purpose of a security deposit is to provide Landlords’ with recourse in the event Tenant(s) cause damage to the rented unit/dwelling during the tenancy.However, security deposits often become the topic of hot disputes between tenants and landlords. It is important to know the “ins-and-outs” of security deposit laws for any state that you are looking to rent in because they vary. Below are a couple examples of the differences between the security deposit laws in Rhode Island and Massachusetts:
In Massachusetts, landlords can require tenants to pay first month’s rent, last month’s rent, and a security deposit (the deposit must be equal to one month’s periodic rental payment and cannot exceed that amount) all at the outset of any tenancy. It is important to note that in Massachusetts, there are many duties and obligations placed on the landlord in which the Massachusetts courts strictly follow. Often times, Landlords who do not follow the strict requirements in receiving and holding the deposit, find themselves paying triple the deposit amount as penalty for not following the requirements. Massachusetts’ landlords are also required to pay interest on the full security deposit, per year.
In Rhode Island, the security deposit laws slightly vary, as landlords are only allowed to take first month’s rent and a security deposit (also only equal to one month’s periodic rent) at the commencement of the tenancy. Countless times I have seen landlords require pre-tenancy payments as deposits for other situations (i.e. pet deposits), however, this is not allowed in Rhode Island and the courts will require any over-payment to be released back to the tenant in full. Also, while Rhode Island does not have nearly the same requirements and obligations on landlords in receiving and holding security deposits, Rhode Island also provides for a multiplication of the deposit to be paid back to the tenant in the event the landlord does not comply with its laws. For example, if a Rhode Island landlord does not provide notice to the tenant within 20 days of vacating the rented unit, or returning the key to the unit, or giving landlord a forward address, whichever act is done last, a landlord could be required to pay double the security and attorney fees, if any, to the tenant.
Wherever you are looking to move, be sure to keep yourself up-to-date and aware of the latest laws and regulations relating to security deposits before you begin the process. Feel free to reach out to Attorney Travis J. DeCosta whether you are a tenant or landlord for guidance and representation in these matters.