The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today that a landlord who never gave a tenant a receipt for her $1,300 security deposit, let alone pay her interest on it, will have to try again if he wants to evict her from her Dorchester apartment.
The state's highest court ruled that the legislature has repeatedly strengthened the security-deposit law as a protection for tenants and that Garth Meikle, who owns a three decker at 41 Wildwood St. in Dorchester, blew it by not giving Patricia Nurse the receipt called for in the law, telling her where he was keeping her money and paying her interest - a bit more than $3.
Because of that, Nurse had the right to fight to stay in the apartment by withholding rent when Meikle let her lease lapse, changed the unit to an at-will one and then tried to evict her in 2014 to make room for family members.
The court said its ruling does not mean Nurse can stay in the apartment forever:
The statute does not impose an obligatory tenancy on the landlord. Nothing in the statute prevents the landlord from bringing a second summary process action for possession after he or she has remedied the violation of the security deposit statute. Also, even where the tenant agrees to pay the amount due the landlord to exercise the right to possession, the landlord may thereafter commence a summary process action. We interpret the Legislature's intent in providing for the tenant's right to retain possession as a timelimited equitable remedy for the particular conduct underlying the tenant's defense or counterclaim.