MA-Can't use "last month's rent" on last month?
June 28, 2011 5:34 PM   Subscribe

MA: I can't use my last month rent as landlord informed me to end the lease first?

This is what happened:
1) I sublease a room on month to month lease. the lease states that 30 day notice is needed to terminate the lease

2) the landlord informed me that his original lease will end on August . He wants me to move out by 8/1. He asks me to send him July's rent and says he'll return my "last month deposit" on August 1st.

3) then I gave him 30 day notice today telling him I'll move out on 7/31 and will use the "last month's rent" that he keeps on July as it's my last month. So I basically told him don't expect me to send him July's rent.

4)Then he insists that as he gave me the lease termination notice first, my notice is hence "invalid" and I can not apply my "last month's rent" on my last month(July)

His validity claim doesn't sound right. But in order to avoid future problem, I change my move out date to 7/30.

Before I go to a lawyer when things get uglier, I want to know
1) what else I can do to avoid future problems. Is there a government agency that I can contact?
( I start to think that he subleases the apt illegally as he never allow me to talk to real owner directly or even contact the community office directly. He says his cousin is the realtor of the apt)

2)And what actions I should take if the landlord accuses me not paying him the rent on time.

Thank you
posted by kktony to Law & Government (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I suggest taking a look at MassLegalHelp. In addition to providing information, they also offer an "email a lawyer" service that may be of help.

The information here seems relevant to me.

After reviewing this information and sharpening your understanding of your situation, you may choose to contact the Mass Housing Consumer Education Center.

IANAL, but what your landlord is saying trips my "scam-radar."
posted by driley at 5:50 PM on June 28, 2011

See "Differences Between a Security Deposit and a Last Month's Rent Payment" here. This information gives no indication that your landlord's request is legitimate.

Additionally, in general I'd be reluctant to hand over a check to someone who promises he's just going to turn around and give it back to you. Why does he need another last month's rent payment when you've already paid, unless he intends to rip you off?
posted by gerryblog at 5:52 PM on June 28, 2011

No idea what's going on here, but most landlords won't let you apply a one-month security deposit as a last-month's rent--that defeats the entire point of a security deposit, which is used to cover damage to the apartment. This is of course assuming that when you moved in, you did not explicitly pay a last-month's rent *in addition to* a security deposit. If you did, then I call BS.
posted by yellowcandy at 5:54 PM on June 28, 2011

Why does he need another last month's rent payment when you've already paid, unless he intends to rip you off?

Or why do you want your security deposit back before he's taken possession and inspected the place, unless you are hiding damages? (He can take thirty days or so to inspect, but at least a week is fair. You can't evaluate a place until you have a chance to be in it.)

In general, you're not supposed to do that with the deposit, and that's why many people have a two month deposit. Put yourself in his shoes, once you say that, you're hanging in his place with no financial ties at all. Why not leave the AC on 24 hrs a day, or spray paint your bike parts on your bedroom floor? Not a good feeling if you're the landlord.

In practice, if you leave on time, with no damage or debris left behind, bills paid, etc. you'll probably be OK.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:01 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Massachusetts landlords apparently have a "last month's rent" payment as a common practice, distinct from a security deposit. Check the links from me and driley above. If it's called a "last month's rent" -- as it is in the post, both in quotes and in the context of the landlord's strange claim that the LMR "can't be applied" for technical reasons that appear to be completely made up -- then it isn't a security deposit and your concerns don't apply.

If it was a security and not a last month's rent, then of course you have to pay last month's rent. But that isn't the situation that's been described. kktony, how does your lease describe this money?
posted by gerryblog at 6:07 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

The contract only asks me to pay first month rent + last month rent when moving in ( no security deposit). The term on the contract is "last month's rent" but not "security deposit". And I was verbally told that I can apply my last month's rent on my last month before signing the lease.

I did check that MassLegalHelp link and that's why his request confuses me as it seems that he's trying to use "last month's rent " as "security deposit".

Now his claim is that as he informed me the lease termination first, I can't use the last month's rent. Under his rule, it seems that as long as the lease is terminated by landlord, the tenant can't use the last month's rent. I don't know where this logic is from. Would this "termination notice time" effect the notice validity (even though he informed me to end the lease by 8/1 BEFORE I told him I'll move out by 7/31 and later change to 7/30?)

We are now still on email arguing back and forth. It seems there is no way to convince him that his action is illegal. Should I stop responding to his emails? Or should I ask him to go to some kind of simple court to get things settled?
posted by kktony at 6:14 PM on June 28, 2011

If you just don't give him any more money, he'd have to take *you* to court, which it sounds like (from your description of the sketchiness of the arrangement) he'd be very reluctant to do, especially for money that he supposedly plans to give back to you in a month anyway.

I'm not a lawyer but my sense is (1) don't give him any more money and (2) remove any valuables you have in the apartment in case he tries to unlawfully evict you / lock you out in retaliation. His insistence on getting money from you for what appears to be a made-up reason makes him seem very unreliable and likely dishonest. Can you move out sooner?
posted by gerryblog at 6:25 PM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Anyone has any idea how much the tenant law attorney charge?
The rent is only $700/m but the landlord really piss me off. And I consider to get a lawyer seriously(if it's not too expensive).

He rented me the room on June and then informed me that his original lease will end on August. During the 2 months here, he won't let me contact community office so that whenever there's something needs to be repaired, I have to call him first. (He occupies the master bedroom but doesn't really live in here) The living room has no furniture at all and he continue to say his furniture is in NY and couldn't be delivered to MA due to different reasons.

When looking back, there were signs. Now I start to regret that I didn't rent from a property management company.(maybe they are more trust-worthy)
posted by kktony at 6:30 PM on June 28, 2011

Thank you gerryblog.
That's a good suggestion.I do try to find another apartment to move out sooner as I'm a single woman and safety is really a big concern now.
posted by kktony at 6:33 PM on June 28, 2011

In case of eviction or lock out, what should I do?
posted by kktony at 6:37 PM on June 28, 2011

An hour of a lawyer's time will sort all of this out and give you some certainty about what will happen next.
posted by twblalock at 7:17 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

After reading this whole thread, I think you are fine!!

If I'm right, you should just ignore him and do what you want. Definitely STOP EMAILING WITH HIM.

(Don't ever put anything in an email you wouldn't want a judge to read, BTW.)


If your lease states that money you gave was, "Last Month's Rent" and did not cite that money as "Deposit" then he has NOTHING to complain about here.

He told you when your last month of tenancy was, you paid that rent a year in advance.

End of Story.

Let him take you to court - he'd lose. If he remits the debt to a collection agency, you have ample documentation (your lease and rent receipts) to refute.

Relax. IANYL, but I think you are OK here.
posted by jbenben at 9:13 PM on June 28, 2011

"In case of eviction or lock out, what should I do?"

First off, the reason he is probably doing this is because he no longer has your "deposit." He was never returning it anyway.

Carry a copy of your lease with you at all times (put the original at work or at a friend's house.) If you get locked out illegally, call a locksmith. Consider that a lost cost. Or, keep the receipt and take him to smalls claims court to recover the expense after you move out.

You can not get evicted legally that quickly, so don't worry. That said, keep any documentation he sends you (notices to pay or quit, etc.) as documentation. If you get one of those, send a certified/return receipt send letter to him stating exactly why you do not owe him money. Quote Mass law in your letter. Proceed with life normally.

To sum up:

The sheriff will not perform a lock out at this stage or in the near future, and certainly not without warning. If he illegally locks you out or throws away your stuff - call a locksmith and SUE HIM.
posted by jbenben at 9:20 PM on June 28, 2011

Wait. You are renting a room in a shared apartment or house?

Take pics of your stuff now, store all personal documents at a friend's, store all very valuables at a friends, stop emailing with him, make plans - move out asap.

This guy is in MAJOR debt and you share a roof. Get out asap.
posted by jbenben at 9:25 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Carry your lease with you at all times. Make copies, keep them elsewhere.

If he locks you out, CALL THE POLICE. And a locksmith.

He can't lock you out legally. He signed a lease. The police will handle it if it comes to a lockout before the end of your lease, regardless of the dispute.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 9:27 PM on June 28, 2011

I have found the Massachusetts Tenants' Handbook to be the clearest and easiest summary of tenants' rights in MA.

Here is very clear language on the last month's rent and pre-payment matters:

"Financial Matters

Pre-payments: Pre-payments, or money to which the landlord is entitled before you move in, are limited by law(M.G.L, c. 186, sec 15B) as follows:

* the first month's rent
* the last month's rent
* one month's security deposit
* purchase and installation cost for a lock and key

Security Deposit and Last Month's Rent

A security deposit and the last month's rent are not the same thing, nor are they interchangeable. Last month's rent is the pre-payment to the landlord for the last month of tenancy. A security deposit is a deposit of money to the landlord to ensure that rent will be paid and other responsibilities of the lease performed (e.g., paying for damage caused by the tenant). The amount of the last month's rent and of the security deposit each cannot be greater than one month's rent. If the landlord later raises the rent, s/he can require you to increase both the amount of the last month's rent and the amount of the security deposit to equal the new rent. A landlord cannot transfer one for the use of the other without the tenant's consent. Likewise, the tenant may not use the security deposit as the last month's rent. "

With regards to terminating a tenancy-at-will least, it says this:

"A Tenant-at-Will is one who occupies a rented premises without a lease but pays rent periodically (typically monthly). The agreement for the Tenancy-at-Will may be either written or verbal. Either the landlord or tenant may terminate this arrangement by giving written notice 30 days or one full rental period in advance, whichever is longer. No reason is required to terminate. If rent is paid the first of each month, notice should be given prior to the first day of the month. However, either the landlord or the tenant may be able to give notice as late as the first day of the month itself. For extra protection send the notice both by certified mail, return receipt-requested, and by regular mail. "

There is nothing I have ever read that says a tenant can't move out earlier than the landlord's date in an at-tenancy building provided the above is followed -- in other words, 30 days notice is given.

I am not a lawyer, but I have rented a lot of apartments in Massachusetts. Your landlord would seem to be incorrect, or would seem to be mixing up your last month's rent as a security deposit. I would go back to your original paperwork and make sure that the language is last month's rent. If so, then you should be okay.

I don't know what you should do in terms of moving out, except, well, to follow the above and then move out. MA is really strong on tenants' rights. The eviction process would take longer than it will for you to otherwise just move out and not pay the additional rent he wants --- rent he already has.

Just make sure all of your paperwork is in order and resubmit your one rental period notice intention to leave this week so you're legally covered. Since the July rental period is 31 days, you actually have to give 31 days notice as the law is 30 days or one rental period, whichever is longer.
posted by zizzle at 2:59 AM on June 29, 2011

You provided first and last month's rent.

The first month's rent is for the first month's rent.

The last month's rent is for your last month's rent.

End of story.
posted by stealabove at 9:12 AM on June 29, 2011

The law and logic both appear to be on your side in this matter. I would firmly in writing let him know that the last month's rent is called that because you've paid for your last month there. End of story.
posted by haveanicesummer at 10:39 AM on June 29, 2011

Landlord here. As mentioned above, getting someone actually evicted is a pain in the butt. I vote for just don't give him additional funds. You've paid your last months rent already. It is ludicrious to ask you to pay it again. I have a feeling that not only is he using the last month as a security deposit, but he plans on keeping it to cover some made up damage.

If you have not already sent in your 30 day notice, send it by certified mail and add as enclosures your canceled checks or receipts or whatever from him accepting first and last months. Keep a copy. Then, basically, ignore him. Being proactive enough to lock you out seems unlikely, if he does, call the cops. They will get you back in a hurry.
posted by stormygrey at 10:50 AM on June 29, 2011

Thank you all so much. I feel much more confident now.
You point out things that I ignored previously and point me to the information I need.

I'll provide more updates by August.
posted by kktony at 4:02 PM on June 29, 2011

Just want to provide what happened afterwards..

The landlord behaved as he never mentioned about the last month rent thing and let me move without bothering me.

Thanks for all of your suggestions!
posted by kktony at 7:22 PM on August 13, 2011

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