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Phillips v. Equity Residential Management, L.L.C. (Lawyers Weekly No. 10-169-17)

NOTICE:  All slip opinions and orders are subject to formal revision and are superseded by the advance sheets and bound volumes of the Official Reports.  If you find a typographical error or other formal error, please notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Judicial Court, John Adams Courthouse, 1 Pemberton Square, Suite 2500, Boston, MA, 02108-1750; (617) 557-1030; SJCReporter@sjc.state.ma.us   SJC-12247   SCOTT PHILLIPS[1]  vs.  EQUITY RESIDENTIAL MANAGEMENT, L.L.C.       Suffolk.     May 1, 2017. – October 25, 2017.   Present:  Gants, C.J., Lenk, Hines, Gaziano, Lowy, Budd, & Cypher, JJ.[2]     Landlord and Tenant, Security deposit, Multiple damages.  Statute, Construction.       Certification of a question of law to the Supreme Judicial Court by the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.     Joshua N. Garick (David Pastor & Preston W. Leonard also present) for the plaintiff. Craig M. White, of Illinois (Thomas H. Wintner also present) for the defendant. The following submitted briefs for amici curiae: Jeffrey J. Pokorak, Catherine Dowie, & John Pierce Wilton for Accelerator-to-Practice Program of Suffolk University Law School & others. Lawrence J. Farber for Greater Boston Real Estate Board. Alex Mitchell-Munevar & Joseph Michalakes for City Life/Vida Urbana.      BUDD, J.  Where a landlord’s itemized list of deductions from a tenant’s security deposit does not comply with the requirements of the Security Deposit Act, G. L. c. 186, § 15B (act), the landlord forfeits the right to retain any part of that deposit.  See G. L. c. 186, § 15B (6).  In certain circumstances the landlord must pay the tenant treble damages, interest, costs, and attorney’s fees, pursuant to § 15B (7).  In a certified question, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit asks whether a tenant is entitled to treble the amount of the entire security deposit under § 15B (7) where a landlord fails to provide to the tenant a statement of damages that meets the statutory requirements, see § 15B (4) (iii), second sentence, thereby forfeiting the entire security deposit, see § 15B (6) (b), and also fails to return that forfeited deposit within thirty days after the termination of the tenancy.  See Phillips v. Equity Residential Mgt., L.L.C., 844 F.3d 1, 7-8 (1st Cir. 2016). We conclude that the Legislature did not intend for the treble damages provision in § 15B (7) to apply to a landlord’s violation of the requirements for an itemized list set out in § 15B (4) (iii), second sentence, or to the amount forfeited for violation of § 15B (6) (b), and accordingly answer the certified question no.[3] Background.  We recite relevant facts presented by the Court of Appeals in its opinion, see Phillips, 844 F.3d at 3-4, along with […]

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Posted by Massachusetts Legal Resources - October 25, 2017 at 11:07 pm

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