New Jersey Security Deposit Returns & Deductions

New Jersey Security Deposit Returns & Deductions

Last Updated: January 6, 2023 by Ashley Porter

Quick Facts Answer
Acceptable Deductions
  • Unpaid rent, late fees & utilities
  • Costs of damage
Return Deadline 30 days
Itemized Deductions Required
Penalty for Late Return 2x amount wrongfully withheld + court costs + attorneys’ fees

For laws on security deposit collections and holdings in New Jersey, click here.

Security Deposit Deductions in New Jersey

In New Jersey, the following things can be deducted from security deposits:

  • Unpaid rent, late fees, and utilities
  • Costs of damage excluding normal wear and tear

Most states, such as New Jersey, do not have a legal limit on how much a landlord can charge for damages except that the charges must be reasonable.

If the cost of the damages exceeds the amount of the security deposit, landlords are entitled to seek additional damages from the former tenant.

What is Considered Normal Wear & Tear vs Damage in New Jersey?

Normal wear and tear is damage that is expected when a rental unit is used in a normal way, such as gently worn carpets and faded walls. Damage is the destruction caused by abusive or negligent use of a rental unit, like ripped carpets and heavily stained walls.

“Normal wear and tear” is deterioration that occurs naturally as a result of the tenant using the property as it was designed to be used.

Examples include:

  • Gently worn carpets
  • Lightly scratched glass
  • Faded paint and flooring
  • Lightly dirtied grout
  • Loose door handles
  • Stained bath fixtures

“Damage” means destruction to the rental unit that occurs because of abuse or negligence by a tenant during the tenancy.

Examples include:

  • Heavily stained, burned, or torn carpets
  • Broken tiles or windows
  • Holes in the wall
  • Missing fixtures

Can the Landlord Charge for Replacing the Carpet in New Jersey?

Yes, landlords can charge for replacing the carpet if it is damaged beyond normal wear and tear.

Some wear and tear on a rental unit’s carpet is expected after normal day-to-day use of the property. For example, carpets typically become discolored, indented, or gently worn, when used in a normal way. However, non-typical, abusive use of carpet results in rips, visible stains, or burns. Landlords have the right to charge the tenant for the replacement of the carpet in areas where serious damage has occurred.

Can the Landlord Charge for Nail Holes in New Jersey?

Yes, landlords can charge a tenant for nail holes if they damage the walls in a way that is not a result of ordinary enjoyment of the rental unit.

Tenants have the right to use the walls within their unit in a reasonable way. This includes inserting small nails or thumbtacks to hang posters or pictures. However, large holes from drilling, multiple nail holes, large nail holes, and holes made for hanging heavier things may be considered damage and thus, chargeable to the tenant.

Can the Landlord Charge a Cleaning Fee in New Jersey?

Landlords in New Jersey cannot make deductions from the security deposit for cleaningunless the tenant causes damage that requires cleaning (e.g. wine stains on the carpet).

Can the Landlord Charge for Painting in New Jersey?

Yes, in New Jersey, landlords can charge for painting, except for normal wear and tear. For example, if the tenant:

  • Causes damage beyond normal wear and tear
  • Repaints the wall but is not permitted to do so under the lease agreement
  • Repaints the wall in an unprofessional way

Normal wear includes minor scrapes from daily use, fading due to sunlight, or minor cracks in the original paint. Landlords can charge for repainting if the damage is not the result of normal use. This includes stains, large or deep scratches, and water damage.

Can a Security Deposit Be Used for Last Month’s Rent in New Jersey?

New Jersey law does not forbid the security deposit from being used for any outstanding rent. If a tenant demands the use of the security deposit instead of paying rent, the landlord can begin the eviction process during the last month of the tenancy.

However, if the landlord fails to uphold their responsibilities regarding a security deposit, the tenant can make a written demand that the security deposit be applied toward rent.

Security Deposit Returns in New Jersey

Landlords must return a security deposit (with interest or earnings due) by hand-delivery, certified or registered mail to the tenant’s last known address with an itemized list of damages no later than 30 days after the termination of the lease.

How Long Do Landlords Have to Return Security Deposits in New Jersey?

New Jersey landlords have 30 days after the termination of the lease to return the security deposit.

However, there are a few exceptions:

  • 15 business days in a lease termination due to domestic violence
  • 5 business days if a tenant is displaced by fire, flood, condemnation, or evacuation
  • 5 business days if occupancy is prohibited by a public official
  • 5 business days if a building inspector certifies that displacement will last longer than seven days

Do Landlords Owe Interest on Security Deposits in New Jersey?

Landlords in New Jersey do owe interest (or earnings from an investment fund) on security deposits. Interest must be paid or credited to the tenant annually. When the security deposit (if any) is returned to the tenant, any accumulated interest or earnings should be included.

How Do Landlords Give Notice / What Information Do They Have to Provide in New Jersey?

When returning a security deposit in New Jersey, an itemized statement of deductions must be sent by hand-delivery, certified, or registered mail to the tenant’s last known address. The written notice should include a detailed accounting of the deductions made plus the amount of interest or earnings due.

Security Deposit Disputes in New Jersey

If landlords do not return the security deposit within the required time period, tenants can file a claim in court for up to twice the amount of the deposit wrongfully withheld plus court costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees.

Tenants can also take legal action against a landlord for:

  • Failure to provide an itemized list of deductions
  • Failure to provide interest or earnings due
  • Unreasonable deductions

How Can Tenants File a Dispute for a Security Deposit in New Jersey?

If a landlord fails to perform their obligations regarding a security deposit, the tenant can file a dispute in Small Claims Court if the amount of damages is less than $5,000. If the amount is greater, the tenant must file a civil case in Special Civil Part. An attorney is not required but permitted.

A small claims case regarding the return of a security deposit must be filed within 6 years. Casesare filed in the county where the rental property is located or where the defendant lives or does business. Filing fees are$35for one defendant ($5 for each additional defendant) plus $7 for service on the defendant.

Our website provides more information about the process of filing a dispute in Small Claims Court.