Is Charging a Pet Deposit Legal in Massachusetts?
Problem: You are moving into your new apartment with your favorite pet. Johnson, a black Labrador you have had for five years is an invaluable member of your family. You can’t imagine living anywhere without him. Upon moving in, your landlord informs you that you will need to tender a “pet deposit” if you want Johnson to live in the apartment. Is a pet deposit legal?
Answer: In Massachusetts, a landlord may charge a pet deposit IF that deposit is handled like a security deposit. Meaning, the pet deposit along with the security deposit:
1. Cannot be more than one month’s rent;
2. The money must be deposited in an interest-earning account protected from the landlord’s creditors; and
3. The landlord must tender statements of interests earned on that deposit annually.
More about the requirements of security deposits can be read here.
Example One: A landlord charges $1,000. He requests $500 for a security deposit and $500 for a pet deposit. The funds are deposited in an interest-earning account. The landlord is compliant with Massachusetts Tenant/Landlord Law.
Example Two: A landlord charges $1,000. He requests $1,000 for the security deposit and $500 for a pet deposit. The landlord deposits the security deposit in an interest-earning account. He deposits the pet deposit into his operating account. The landlord is not in compliance with Massachusetts Tenant/Landlord Law for two reasons:
1. He charged more than one month’s rent for the security deposit and pet deposit.
2. He did not treat the pet deposit as a security deposit because he put the funds into his operating account rather than into an interest-earning account that was protected from his creditors.
If your landlord charged you a pet deposit and you think it’s not in compliance with Massachusetts Law, contact us today. Pursuant to Massachusetts’ security deposit law, you may be able to collect triple damages plus attorney’s fees for your landlord’s mistake.