Archive | Landlord-Tenant RSS feed for this section

Small Claims – How It Works

17 Oct

It happens often. You’re buying a home but you don’t like the results of the
inspection and you cancel the offer – or at least you try. The seller refuses
to release your deposit.

 You’re a tenant. You paid a security deposit and now you want it back. You’ve asked for it but your requests have been ignored.

Recent changes to small claims procedures make small claims very attractive. The amount that can be sued for in small claims has increased from $2,000 to
$7,000.

You don’t need to hire a lawyer in small claims unless you are a corporation or a
limited liability company. You can do it yourself.

Once the small claims case is filed, notice is sent to the defendant by regular
mail. A date is chosen by the court and the parties must appear or risk being
defaulted.

Hearings are no longer held in front of a judge. Rather, certain court personnel,
designated as Clerk/Magistrates, conduct the hearings.

It’s important to bring with you all the documents that you want considered by the hearing officer. Telling the hearing officer that “it’s at home” will often
lose the case. Be fully prepared to have any witnesses with you, copies of
checks and all your documents. Good luck! 

© 2011 George Warshaw. All rights reserved.

__________

George Warshaw is a real estate attorney and legal author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions at george.warshaw@warshawlaw.com.

Legal Advice: Laws, and court decisions interpreting them, change frequently and this article is not updated as laws change. The content and information contained in this article is neither intended as legal advice nor shall establish an attorney-client relationship. Before making any legal decision, consult an attorney to see how the foregoing may apply to your circumstances.

Advertisements

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  george.warshaw@warshawlaw.com.

What You Need to Know before Renting an Apartment

1 May

Rental Basics – a two-part series
Metro® Boston, Publication Date: April 20, 2011
Metro® Boston, Publication Date: April 27, 2011

By Attorney  George Warshaw

I’m often asked by landlords, “what should I do before renting an apartment?” My initial advice is “fix up the apartment before you rent it, eliminate every possible code violation and document it.”

Massachusetts gives a tenant the right to withhold rent if there are sanitary or building code violations in the apartment that endanger the health or safety of its occupants. If these conditions exist and certain requirements are met, the tenant is entitled to a reduction in the rent and a defense in any legal action to evict the tenant.

Under current law, a landlord is responsible for defective conditions that exist at the inception of the tenancy, even if the landlord doesn’t know about the problems. If, for example, an apartment has drafty and loose windows or rodents at the time of the rental, the landlord is liable under the law even if the tenant doesn’t complain about it.

So, be a smart landlord; inspect your apartments and eliminate any problems before your tenants move in.

On Security Deposits and Last Month’s Rent

A security deposit is treated differently under Massachusetts law than a last month’s rent. Rent is the landlord’s money and can be spent by the landlord at any time. A security deposit is the tenant’s money and must be protected and preserved. A security deposit must be held in a special security deposit bank account in Massachusetts. The tenant is entitled to interest on both the last month’s rent and security, even though the landlord may freely spend the last month’s rent.

Landlords routinely make 2 major mistakes in handling security deposits.

If a landlord fails to give a tenant an “Apartment Condition Statement” requesting the tenant list any defects in the apartment, the landlord cannot later deduct for damage to the apartment from the security.

If a landlord fails to provide the tenant with the required bank and account information within 30 days of taking the deposit, the landlord forfeits the right to hold the deposit and has to return the deposit on the tenant’s request. © 2011 George Warshaw.

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  george.warshaw@warshawlaw.com.