Can a landlord charge for damages made aftera tenant hasmoved out and the final walk-through has been made?

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Can a landlord charge for damages made aftera tenant hasmoved out and the final walk-through has been made?

We moved out of our NJ apartment rental 10 days ago. On that day, we did a thorough walk-through with the landlord who agreed that the apartment was given back clean and free of damages. Unfortunately, we did not get anything in writing. However, yesterday she sent me an email saying that while she was cleaning in the kitchen, the cabinet above the refrigerator fell off. She is claiming that this is our fault and said that we either need to repair it or she will charge us out of our security deposit to have someone else fix this. Who is correct here?

Asked on May 10, 2011 under Real Estate Law, New Jersey

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If there was damage which was not visible at the time of the walk through--e.g. a loose cabinet that fell at a later date--then IF that damage is traceable to the tenants' actions, they can be charged for it. (If it was damage that could have been reasonably seen during the walk through, then the walk through should act to bar the landlord from seeking compensation.)

Note  that the fact that the cabinet was loose and fell does not, without more, make it your financial responsibility. Landlords may *not* charge for ordinary wear and tear. So if the cabinet simply has loosened over time, that is not your fault (and nor is it your fault if the landlord, the super, etc. hit it and knocked it loose). Only if it was caused by you, your family, your guests, etc. should you be responsible.


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