What to do if your landlord will not discuss the return of your security deposit?

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What to do if your landlord will not discuss the return of your security deposit?

Since we told our landlord last month that we were moving he has been childish. He won’t talk to us. We asked about our security deposit statement and he said that he was exempt because the unit is owner-occupied. However, it is in our lease that we were supposed to have the statement. Everytime we ask he has nothing to say. We asked by text, regular mail and certified mail. He told my husband not to text his phone anymore and he doesn’t want to deal with me because I am a woman (but he dealt with me when we signed the lease). What can we do” We move in 5 days and still don’t know where our money is.

Asked on April 23, 2011 under Real Estate Law, New Jersey

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

"Owner-occupied" exempts a landlord from certain obligations, but NOT the obligation to return a security deposit when a tenant moves out. He must return to you the deposit less any permitted deductions for (1) damage done by you (or your family, friends, pets, guests, etc.) to the premises; (2) "extraordinary cleaning"--not wear and tear (no deductions), but things which are essentially repairs, like getting red wine or pet urine stains out of carpet or replacing the carpet; and (3) any unpaid rent. Note that if you had a written lease and its term was not up, then you don't necessarily have the right to leave on a month's notice (check what the lease says); if you have breached the lease by leaving early, you are liable for all the remaining rent due under the lease until it's end, which may come out of the deposit.

If the landlord will not voluntarily comply with his or her obligations, you may sue the landlord for the recovery of the deposit and possibly additional damages as well.


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