Collecting for Damages in MA

2 Replies

I am a landlord in MA and recently had tenants move out and cause damages to my property (soot all over the walls + holes which required extensive cleaning, patching and re-painting).

I did have a security deposit, but unfortunately, I was not aware of the very specific security deposit laws in MA.  I fully take responsibility for this and realize it was my mistake.  When the tenants demanded return of their deposit, I immediately acknowledged my mistake and returned the deposit.

This does not change the fact that they are responsible for these damages. 

I took a full video of the apartment upon move-in with myself and the tenant in the video and have numerous photos & videos of the condition of the apartment when vacated.

I want to bill the tenants for the damages but want to make sure I follow the laws/procedures correctly.  Does anyone have info on what to do? I am having trouble finding info online (everything is tenant favored!!)

If they don't pay (which they have already said they will not pay a dollar), what are the next steps? 

Can I report to a credit agency in MA?

@Jill B. Smart move on walking away from the security deposit.  Given how hostile housing courts are to landlords, that's not the hill you want to die on.

If you really want to pursue this - and it may not be worth your time - I think your next step is to go to small claims court.

Filing is easy.  Most likely, they won't show for the hearing.  They'll schedule a second hearing.  If the tenant doesn't show again, you'll get a default judgement.

Then they schedule a payment hearing.  If the tenant doesn't show up again, you can ask for an "execution" (no, it's not capital punishment!) which let's you get a sheriff or constable to seize and sell assets to satisfy the judgment.  

You can also ask for a "capias", which is a civil arrest warrant.  This allows you to have either a sheriff or constable arrest the tenant and physically bring them to court.  You can get both an execution and capias at the same time.

Collecting can be a challenge, but interest accrues at 12% per year.

You could take them to Small Claims Court. It's inexpensive and easy to prove your case if you have before/after documented. Another option is to turn their account over to collections, which does not require going to court first. The downside is that IF the collection agency actually collects money, they'll take 30 - 40% as their fee. Success rates with collection agencies are extremely low, probably around 10 - 15%.

In both cases, you are unlikely to get any money.