Rentals / Seasonal and Vacation Homes

Notes from the Attorneys of the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS Legal Hotline

Q: I am renting a summer home and heard that landlord-tenant laws do not apply, is that correct, I am planning on collecting a security deposit, is that okay? Further, does that mean that the lead paint laws don’t apply either?

A: Short-term rentals such as vacation or seasonal rentals are exempt from a number of laws such as those pertaining to security deposits and lead paint abatement. You are free to charge a security deposit, but are not required to provide a statement of condition or to keep it in a separate, interest-bearing account. The lead paint law exempts short-term vacation or recreational rentals of 31 days or less from the lead paint law requirements as long as (1) the rental unit has no chipping or peeling paint and (2) the tenant has received the Short-Term Vacation or Recreational Exemption Notification form. This form must be provided to the tenant by the owner prior to entering into a tenancy agreement.

Q: May I charge a pet deposit for a summer rental of three months?

A: Maybe. Vacation and recreational rentals of 100 days or less are exempt from many of the statutory requirements including security deposit requirements, therefore as long as the rental is 100 days or less you may charge pet deposits.

Q: Normally my office returns a security deposit immediately at the end of a tenancy. Last year one of our tenants ran up a very large phone bill and my office was stuck with the charges. May we institute a policy wherein we do not return the vacation deposit until all bills are received?

A: Yes, this policy is perfectly fine. Massachusetts law does not require a vacation rental security deposit to be returned within a specific period of time at the end of the tenancy. Unless the lease specifically requires otherwise, a landlord should only hold on to the security deposit long enough to ensure that all expenses and damages caused by the tenants are discovered and deducted from the deposit.  By this time the landlord should afford herself adequate time to receive all bills (e.g. – phone bills) and assess any damage done to the property. This applies for Massachusetts law only, owners of villa rentals in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, for example, might be different altogether. If you have property in another state or country it is best that you check with regulatory authorities in the state and/or country concerned.