How Much May a Landlord Charge at Rental?

4 May

Metro® Boston, Publication Date: May 4, 2011

By Attorney George Warshaw

The law is clear: a landlord in Massachusetts cannot require a residential tenant pay more than a first month’s rent, a last month’s rent, a security deposit (of no more than one month’s rent), and a key and lock deposit when renting an apartment.

That’s the maximum. There are no exceptions.

A pet deposit, a cleaning deposit, or any other kind of “deposit” is nothing more than a security deposit. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a landlord limiting the potential use of a security deposit to repair a specific type of damage to an apartment, such as one caused by a pet. The problem usually arises when the deposit doesn’t relate to the “condition of the apartment” or the total of these security deposits exceeds a single month’s rent.

A landlord who requires a full month’s security deposit and a half month’s pet deposit, for example, asks for too much. A tenant has the right to demand that the landlord immediately return the excess.

Demanding more than what the law permits is considered an unfair or deceptive act or practice under the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act and subjects a landlord to possible significant damages under multiple landlord-tenant and consumer protection laws.

The foregoing is not intended as legal advice. Consult an attorney to see how or if the foregoing applies to you.

Attorney George Warshaw represents buyers and sellers of homes, condos and investment properties, prepares wills and trusts for inheriting real estate, and trusts that protect your children and pets. George welcomes new clients and questions at


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