New Jersey’s Security Deposit Law, N.J.S.A. 46:8-21.1, requires strict compliance by Landlords. The law’s most rigid requirement is the timing of the return of the deposit. As soon as a tenancy ends, a landlord should be prepared to follow the precise letter of the law. Even an honest mistake can lead to an award of double the security deposit and attorney’s fee’s against the landlord.
New Jersey’s Security Deposit Law requires that within thirty days after the termination of a tenancy, the landlord must return by personal delivery, registered or certified mail the deposit plus the tenant’s portion of the interest/earnings accumulated, less any lawful deductions in accordance with the Lease. In Kang v. Re/Max Fortune Properties, Inc, 338 N.J. Super.534, the Court held that even where a landlord returned the amount due to tenant five days after the thirty day requirement, the tenant was entitled to the remedy provided by the statute. Kang can stand for the proposition that “substantial compliance” or “good faith” is not a defense to a security deposit violation case. This makes the calculus fairly simple: Violate the Security Deposit Law in any way, are you are subject to double the deposit plus attorney’s fees. It is imperative that a landlord strictly comply with each and every requirement of the law.
Although the law requires strict compliance, the calculation of damages owed to the tenant is not strictly double the security deposit. Another post will explain that the doubling applies only to the amount “wrongfully withheld.” But, a diligent landlord can avoid calculating any damages in the first place.
Since the facts of each circumstance vary, a landlord or tenant should consult an attorney with his/her specific circumstances. Offit Kurman practices landlord tenant law throughout New York and New Jersey assisting landlords and tenants in avoiding unnecessary and costly delays. The firm’s geographic practice area includes: New York City (Manhattan, New York County, Brooklyn, Kings County, Queens, Queens County, Bronx County, Staten Island, Richmond County) and New Jersey (Jersey City, Hoboken, Bayonne, Hudson County, Newark, Essex County, Woodbridge, Middlesex County, Paterson, Passaic County). The Firm invites you to visit the “Promises” page for our new way of doing business