Tag Archives: Real Estate Attorney

How to Setup a Security Deposit Account

20 Nov

By Attorney George Warshaw
MetroBoston Publication Date: November 20, 2013

 

There’s more to it than you may think.

First, the account has to be set up within 30 days of when the security deposit is paid, and the tenant given notice of the account within that 30 days period.

Second, it must be placed in a bank located in Massachusetts. You can’t use Fidelity to hold the money and you can’t deposit it in another state.

So you can’t set it up at Bank of America in New Hampshire or Citizens in Rhode Island. The account branch has to be located in Massachusetts.

Most banks have what they call security deposit accounts; basically a savings or escrow account that pays interest. Usually the name of the account identifies it by the words “Tenant’s Security Deposit Account” or some variation.

I use TD Bank. TD has a special Security Deposit Account Agreement that complies with the law. Five other banks I surveyed don’t use any special agreement. Therefore, I can’t tell if the account just sounds nice or actually complies with the legal requirements.

Last, landlords have to give tenants notice about the account every year. Make it easy on yourself. Have the printed monthly bank statement sent directly to the tenant. They get the info required and you can always access it online.

 

© 2013 George Warshaw.  George Warshaw is a well-known attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, litigates real estate matters, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions. Contact him at metro@warshawlaw.com.

Lessons Landlords Haven’t Learned

7 Nov

MetroBoston Publication Date November 6, 2013
By Attorney George Warshaw

I’ve written many articles on security deposits intending to educate landlords and tenants alike. I’ve met with many tenants on their security deposit problems and received a great many more emails from tenants.

Oddly, I’ve never received one email from a landlord. Perhaps they don’t read the Metro.

These are the most common violations of the security deposit laws.

#1. Not returning the deposit within 30 days after the tenancy ends.

#2. Deducting for repairs that are not “repairs” such as apartment cleaning, repainting where the alleged abuse is only ordinary wear and tear, and repairs that are not actually made.

#3. Not stating in the landlord’s deduction letter above the signature (or elsewhere): “signed under the penalties of perjury.” A landlord cannot deduct for repairs unless these magic words appear.

#4. Not depositing the security deposit into a proper tenant’s security deposit account.

#5. Not paying the tenant interest every year.

#6. Not delivering the tenant a notice within 30 days of occupancy stating the bank and account numbers where the money is being held.

#7. Not providing the tenant an Apartment Condition Statement within 10 days of occupancy.

Numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4 are triple damage penalties under the law.
Numbers 6 and 7 result in the loss of the right to take or hold the security deposit.

© 2013 George Warshaw. George Warshaw is a well-known attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, litigates real estate matters, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions.  Contact him at metro@warshawlaw.com.

Is Interest Due on Last Month’s Rent?

9 Oct

MetroBoston Publication date October 9, 2013
By Attorney George Warshaw 

Many landlords choose to require a last month’s rent rather than a security deposit under the belief that there is less risk and no liability with a last month’s rent.

That’s very true with one exception: a landlord still has to pay the tenant interest on the amount of the last month’s rent.

Yes, that’s right. It’s a common misconception that interest is only payable on a security deposit and not on the last month’s rent.

The tenancy statute is very clear. A tenant is entitled to interest at the annual rate of 5% on the amount paid as last month’s rent with one exception.

A landlord may avoid paying the 5% rate if the landlord escrows the money in an interest-bearing account bank account. In that case the tenant only receives the interest earned in the account.

In calculating the number of months that interest is due, the landlord doesn’t have to pay interest for the very last month of the tenancy, since that is the month for which the last month’s was taken and presumably used.

If a landlord takes a last month’s rent and a security deposit, the tenant is entitled to interest on both, payable at the end of each year of the tenancy.

© 2013 George Warshaw.  George Warshaw is a well-known attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, litigates real estate matters, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions. Contact him at metro@warshawlaw.com.

 

Is Your House Haunted?

18 Apr

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: April 18, 2012
By Attorney George Warshaw

The Amityville horrors right in your neighborhood.

A murder, a suicide or unimaginable event occurred years ago. You hear cries and whispers at night. It’s eerie.

It’s your home?

You didn’t know it when you bought, but now you want to sell or rent your house or apartment. Can you sell or rent it without disclosing it was the scene of a violent crime or haunted? Will you be sued if you don’t?

Under Consumer Protection Laws, real estate agents usually have to disclose all facts that would be material to a person making an offer.

When it comes to “psychologically impacted” property, the answer is “not unless you’re asked.”

Several years ago, the Massachusetts Legislature adopted its own form of a “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” policy where the real property was the site of a felony, suicide or homicide, or an alleged parapsychological or supernatural phenomenon.

Section 114 of chapter 93 of the General Laws protects a seller, landlord or a real estate agent from failing to disclose to a buyer or tenant that the real property is or was “psychologically impacted” – unless the seller, landlord or agent was asked about the possible occurrence of an event at the house or apartment and then failed to disclose it.

And if your house is haunted, well, there’s always Ghostbusters!
© George Warshaw 2012

George Warshaw is a real estate and estate planning attorney in Massachusetts.  He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts for individuals and families. George welcomes new clients and questions at metro@warshawlaw.com.

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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.

What’s Most Overlooked in an Offer to Purchase?

27 Feb

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: February 22, 2012
By: George Warshaw

You’re out shopping for a new home. You’re not too worried about getting or needing a loan to finance your purchase.

You submit an offer, it’s accepted, but the appraisal comes in lower than your offer. Can you cancel your purchase or renegotiate the price?

Quite often, no!

Buyers who finance 80% or more of their purchase price have a built-in protection.  The bank will turn you down if the appraisal comes in less than the purchase price.

Borrow more than 80% of the value of the home and the bank has too much risk.  80% LTV (Loan-to-Value) is considered the maximum safe-lending benchmark.

But, if you finance less than 80% of your purchase price, you may have no safety net. Let me explain by example.

Buy a home for $500,000, but request a loan for only $250,000 (i.e. 50% LTV). You may care if the appraisal comes in at $400,000, but the bank won’t. That’s because the appraised LTV is still well below the 80% safe-loan benchmark.

The time to protect yourself is in your offer. Ask your broker or attorney whether your offer should be subject to an appraisal of no less than the purchase price of the house.

It may protect you in the end.

© 2012 George Warshaw.

George Warshaw is a real estate and estate planning attorney in Massachusetts.  He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts for individuals and families. George welcomes new clients and questions at metro@warshawlaw.com.

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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.

Where Are Interest Rates Going?

11 Aug

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: August 10, 2011

By Attorney George Warshaw

Lost in the debris of the deficit debacle and the stock market free fall is the effect on mortgage interest rates. Will they rocket upwards, stay the same or decline?

Mortgage rates rise or fall based on something. But what?

There are actually two types of mortgage loans and two types of rates: first mortgages are long-term interest rates; home equity loans are short-term monthly rates. The rate on each is established differently, and often go in different directions based on the exact same news.

When the Fed announces that it is lowering or raising rates, that immediately affects the monthly rate charged on home equity loans, not first mortgages.

First mortgage rates are determined by the longer-term bond market. I’ve heard it said that first mortgage rates follow “the 10-year Treasury” or “mortgage backed securities” instead. In other words, as prices on a specific longer-term “fixed income investment” rise or fall on Wall Street, first mortgages interest rates ultimately bounce along with it.

Confused? Since no one seems to be managing our economy right now, you are not alone. Be safe. If you can lower your first mortgage rate, do it now.

Need a recommendation for a good mortgage lender? Email me. I know several good lenders.

© 2011 George Warshaw. All Rights Reserved.

George Warshaw is a real estate attorney and 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.

Money When You Need It

26 Jul

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: July 13, 2011

By Attorney George Warshaw

I’ve always relied on a simple lending principle: banks will gladly loan you money when you don’t need it; but not necessarily when you really need it.

That’s why home equity loans are a key financing planning tool.

A home equity loan (often called a HELOC) is a loan against the equity in your house or condo. The interest rate is typically based on the prime rate and can float or change monthly as the prime changes. It functions like a credit card.

I spoke with William Schulz, a banker at Citibank (617-725-0104, william.h.schulz@citi.com), a specialist in home equity loans.

“Because interest is often (i.e. not always) deductible on your taxes, many people use it for their children’s college education, home remodeling, medical expenses, or to have money available should they need it,” he said.

“The process is simple. It costs the borrower nothing in fees, and nothing if you don’t use it. Once you provide the necessary paperwork, it’s usually 30 days to closing.”

Since interest paid on a credit card is often not deductible, a HELOC can be a sensible way of making major purchases – but be careful: like any mortgage loan, it has to be repaid!

© 2011 George Warshaw. All rights reserved.

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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.