A District Court Appellate Division recently reversed a district court judge’s award of possession to a landlord in an eviction trial. In Duff v. Pouliot, et al. the Appellate court found that the Landlord was in violation of the security deposit statue thereby entitling the Tenant to possession of the apartment.
During the original trial, the Tenant countersued the landlord when the landlord tried to evict him. The Tenant alleged four violations by the Landlord of the security deposit statute, G.L.c. 186, §15B:
failure to place the deposit in a separate bank account;
failure to pay or deduct the Tenants’s yearly interest;
failure to provide the Tenant with required receipts; and
failure to provide the Tenant with a statement of conditions.
The appeals court corrected the district court judge finding that the district court judge made a mistake when he found the landlord in violation of the security deposit law but did not award the Tenant possession.
The appeals court reasoned a violation of the security deposit statute may be asserted as a defense to an eviction, citing Meikle v. Nurse, 474 Mass. 207, 214 (2016). In Meikle, the Court stated, ‘Where a Tenant prevails on a defense or counterclaim and is awarded damages in an amount less than the amount owed to the Landlord, the statute [G.L.c. 239, §8A] provides that ‘no judgment shall enter until after the expiration of the time for such payment and the Tenant has failed to make such payment.’
What that means is, when Tenants assert a defense to eviction and wins on that defense, no matter how minor, Tenants can stay in their apartment if they pay the difference between what is owed in rent and what they were awarded in the judgment.
The moral of this story is that a Landlord still runs the risk of being defeated in eviction for even the most minor violation of the security deposit statute. Often, it’s this “low hanging fruit” as I like to refer to it, that is the Tenant’s best defense to an eviction.
If you are in the process of being evicted, please get in touch today to see if Doubleday Law can help you.