What is a Boston condo/apartment security deposit?

Typically, when you decide to put money down on a new Boston apartment, more than the first month’s rent is required.  Many landlords want either a “security deposit” up front. While most of us immediately begin writing the check when asked, do you really know what that money is for? Are you ever going to see it again? Does it mean you don’t have to pay your last month’s rent?

What is a Boston condo/apartment security deposit?

A security deposit is a fixed amount of money you pay your landlord, or management company, to cover any damage you might cause to the property. The landlord can’t spend that money while you live in the apartment. In most states, in Boston the law requires your security deposit be held in a special account (Escrow Account) until you move out and the landlord can check the apartment for damage. If there are no damages, the money must be returned to you with interest. If there are damages, any money left over after fixing them must be returned to you.

Can I tell the landlord to use my security deposit as the last month’s rent?

Your security deposit is not intended to cover your last month’s rent. In fact, chances are good that your lease specifically says you cannot use your security deposit to cover the last month’s rent. That makes sense when considering the purpose of a security deposit:  that practice would leave the landlord unprotected if the property was damaged. Also, that protection is the whole point of requiring a security deposit. Some landlords require the last month’s rent to be paid in advance, in addition to or instead of a security deposit. If that’s the case, your last month is covered—but that’s very different from a traditional security deposit.

How do I get my security deposit back?

When you move out, your landlord may do a walk-through with you or check out the place after you’re gone. For your protection, it’s a good idea to take photographs before you move in and before you move out, to show the condition of the apartment when you got the keys and when you left it. Although the process varies a little from state to state, it basically goes like this:

  • The landlord checks the apartment for damages
  • The landlord makes any necessary repairs
  • The landlord sends you an itemized list of damages and repair costs, along with any remaining balance on your security deposit

When you move out, be sure to give your landlord your new address. They are  legally required to send you an itemized list of damages and the balance of your security deposit within a certain time period, but they can’t do that if they don’t know where to find you.

Remember, too, your security deposit isn’t the limit of your liability. While you’re entitled to get some or all of your security deposit back—if you’ve done little or no damage—if the amount of damage exceeds the amount of your deposit, the landlord can bill—or even sue—you to recover the remaining damages.

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Author Profile

John Ford
John Ford

Over the course of 20 years in the Boston downtown real estate market, John represented and sold numerous, condominiums, investment and development properties in Greater Boston and in the surrounding suburbs

In addition to representing Boston condo buyers and sellers, John is currently one of the most recognized Boston condo blog writers regarding Boston condominiums and residential real estate markets. John's insights and observations about the Boston condo market have been seen in a wide variety of the most established local & national media outlets including; Banker and Tradesman, Boston Magazine The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald and NewsWeek and Fortune magazine, among others.


For over 24 years, John Ford, of Ford Realty Inc., has been actively involved in the real estate industry. He started his career in commercial real estate with a national firm Spaulding & Slye and quickly realized that he had a passion for residential properties. In 1999, John entered the residential real estate market, and in 2000 John Started his own firm Ford Realty Inc. As a broker, his clients have come to love his fun, vivacious, and friendly attitude. He prides himself on bringing honesty and integrity to the entire home buying and selling process. In addition to helping buyers and sellers, he also works with rental clients. Whether you’re looking to purchase a new Boston condo or rent an apartment, you’ll quickly learn why John has a 97% closing rate.


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John Ford and his staff can be reached at 617-595-3712 or 617-720-5454. Please feel free to stop by John's Boston Beacon Hill office located at 137 Charles Street.

John Ford
Ford Realty Inc
137 Charles Street
Boston, Ma 02114



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