Security Deposit Illegally Withheld / Illegal to Charge Constable Fees

Recently, Attorney Murphy settled a security deposit matter on behalf of his two clients, student roommates who rented an apartment in the Fenway neighborhood of Boston.  When the tenants vacated, the landlord withheld the tenants’ security deposit based on: damage to the walls, a broken door hinge, and for constable fees the landlord incurred in delivering a notice to quit to the tenants for a late rent payment.

Once the tenants realized the landlord was not returning the security deposit, the tenants contacted Attorney Murphy.

Attorney Murphy examined the landlord’s basis for withholding the security deposit and concluded it was unlawful.  Significantly, Attorney Murphy identified the landlord violated Massachusetts law by charging the tenants for constable fees.  It is illegal in Massachusetts for a landlord to do so prior to a formal legal action.  See Commonwealth vs. Chatham Development Co. Inc., 49 Mass. App. Ct. 525 (2000)(it is illegal to charge tenants constable fees in Massachusetts prior to commencement of a formal legal complaint).

Attorney Murphy then examined the other basis for the landlord’s withholding the security deposit, and determined that the alleged damages were nothing more than normal wear and tear.

Accordingly, Attorney Murphy sent a demand letter to the landlord outlining his clients’ claims.  The landlord responded by returning the full security deposit as well as paying for the tenants’ attorney’s fees.


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