Massachusetts Appeals Court Finds Tenant Must Maintain Possession When Landlord Violates Security Deposit Statue

Massachusetts Appeals Court Finds Tenant Must Maintain Possession When Landlord Violates Security Deposit StatueIn the recent court case Tringali v. O’Leary, a judge found that the awarding of possession to a landlord despite the knowledge that said landlord had violated a security deposit statute, was improper under G.L.c. 239, §8A. Appeals Court reverses finding the Landlord’s violation of 93A and 186§15 allows Tenant to retain position of the apartment.

If you are being evicted and your landlord has not properly documented your security deposit, get in Contact!

In the initial case of Tringali v. O’Leary, the plaintiff-landlord in question began to evict the defendant-tenant after she failed to vacate the premises, despite a 30-day notice that was posted signaling the defendant to quit. Once this had occurred, the tenant (who had been living at the location for around 4 years), counterclaimed against the plaintiff-landlord for a violation of security deposit law G.L.c. 186, §15B and the consumer protection law G.L.c. 93A, §9. Although the judge found the plaintiff-landlord’s termination of the defendant-tenants tenancy was to be upheld, they also found that the plaintiff-landlord’s violation of security deposit and consumer protection laws had also occurred. The court found that this had occurred for two reasons (please see G.L.c. 186, §15B; G.L.c. 93A, §9; 940 CMR §3.17(4)(c) and (e).):

  • The landlord had failed to provide the defendant-tenant with any annual interest on her security deposit.
  • The landlord failed to provide any written statement of conditions, which laid out the conditions of the tenancy/deposit at the beginning of the tenancy.

The initial final decision found that, since the defendant-tenant had failed in providing any actual evidence of damages, the court could only award small nominal damages of $25 for each violation, making a total of $50 awarded to the defendant-tenant. In the case of the landlord, the court did uphold the awarding of possession.

Unhappy with the final verdict, the tenant decided to appeal under the pretense that the court had made an error in awarding possession to the landlord, as they obtained a money judgment in their favor. The attorney for the tenant argued that the plain language found within the statute had clearly forbidden the landlord from recovering possession of the property since the landlord still owed the tenant money. To win the case, the attorney cited Lawrence v. Osuagwu, stating, “The statute does not limit the possible counterclaims to those relating to the physical condition of the premises.” The final verdict of the appeal found that the judgment that was in favor of the landlord gaining possession was made in error, and the decision was reversed in order of the tenant.

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Arthur Hardy-Doubleday

Author Arthur Hardy-Doubleday

Arthur Hardy-Doubleday practices law in Cambridge and Martha's Vineyard Massachusetts. He works in the areas of Real Estate, Personal Injury, and Consumer Protection Law. When not practicing law, Arthur enjoys sailing, hanging out with friends on the beach, and waking his dog "Ridiculous."

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