Can I have my apartment locks changed and deduct the cost from my roommate’s deposit, if she just moved out without returning her keys?

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Can I have my apartment locks changed and deduct the cost from my roommate’s deposit, if she just moved out without returning her keys?

My roommate just moved out and she didn’t return the keys to the building and my apartment (I am on the lease, she is not). She made several excuses as to not returning them. Now she claimed that she forgot the keys at her vacation place and said she will return them when she can (but didn’t say when). If she had had a better attitude, I wouldn’t have minded, but she is like: hey I forgot mailing the keys to you, big deal, make some copies and show me the receipt and I will pay for it. So can I change the lock and charge her for the replacement?

Asked on August 17, 2011 New Jersey

Answers:

FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If you have a written lease with your former roommate, read it carefully in that it sets forth the obligations you owe each other in the absence of conflicting state law. If there is a provision concerning security deposits and its purpose, read it carefully in that it may answer your question.

If it does not, then in all likelihood you can deduct from your roommate's deposit the costs of the new locks and keys after she left in that in every lease the express or implied agreement is that the tenant would return to the landlord the keys at the end of the term. She failed to do so and you needed to feel secure with new locks and keys for the unit.


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