If you’re a Massachusetts tenant and you paid an application fee or a credit check fee to a landlord or property management company before you rented an apartment or a house, then you may have paid an illegal fee.
Under Massachusetts law, landlords can only collect four specific charges from new tenants of residential homes, apartments, complexes or condominiums: (1) first month’s rent; (2) last month’s rent; (3) a security deposit no greater than first month’s rent; and, (4) the cost of a new lock and keys.
That’s it. No more than those four charges. Nada.
Yet, despite this Massachusetts law, some landlords are still trying to charge new tenants for extra fees and costs that are not allowed. Landlords will often give these bogus fees and charges misleading names like “application fees,” “credit check fees,” “holding deposits,” “pet fees,” “amenties fee” or “cleaning fees.” However, the law is clear that only first month’s rent, last month’s rent, a security deposit and the cost of new locks and keys can be charged to new tenants.
College and graduate school students in the Greater Boston area and in other college-towns, seem to be particularly vulnerable to the practice of landlords collecting application fees. The reasons they tend to be victimized is pretty straightforward: they need housing so they can attend school and they don’t know their rights.
If you’ve paid any fee other than the four that are allowed, then you may be entitled to a complete refund of the fees from your landlord or property manager.
If you believe that you paid any of these fees in the past and would like to get more information about your legal rights contact us for an evaluation of your tenancy.