Most residential leases and rental agreements in New Jersey require a security deposit. This is a dollar amount, usually one month's rent, that's intended to cover damage to the premises beyond normal wear and tear, and to cushion the financial blow if a tenant skips out early on the lease without paying. Here’s a summary of New Jersey landlord-tenant laws that cover the use and return of security deposits.
Does New Jersey law limit how much a landlord can charge a tenant for a security deposit?
Yes. Under New Jersey landlord-tenant law, landlords may charge the equivalent of one and one-half months' rent for the security deposit. Any additional security deposit, collected annually, may be no greater than 10% of the current security deposit.
To learn more about steps that tenants can take to protect their security deposit after they've paid it, check out Nolo's article Protect Your Security Deposit When You Move In.
What about when a tenant moves out? What is the deadline in New Jersey for returning a security deposit?
Under New Jersey law, a landlord must return the tenant's security deposit within 30 days after the tenant has surrendered the rental property to the landlord (that is, returned the keys and vacated the property), but within five days in case of fire, flood, condemnation, or evacuation.
Learn more about tenants' rights and landlords' obligations when it comes to the return of the security deposit in Nolo's chart Cleaning and Repairs a Landlord Can Deduct from a Security Deposit and Nolo's article Get Your Security Deposit Back.
Is there additional information that New Jersey landlords must provide to tenants when it comes to security deposits in New Jersey?
Yes. In addition to complying with New Jersey laws on security deposit limits and how (and when) the deposit must be returned to tenants, landlords in New Jersey must pay tenants interest earned on security deposits, either in annual interest payments or as credit toward payment of rent due. Within 30 days of receiving the deposit and every time the landlord pays the tenant interest, the landlord must disclose the name and address of the financial institution where the deposit is being held, the type of account, current rate of interest, and the amount of the deposit.
Are there any exceptions to New Jersey security deposit rules?
Yes. State security deposit laws do not apply to owner-occupied buildings with three or fewer units unless the tenant gives 30 days' written notice to the landlord of the tenant's wish to invoke the law.
Where can I look up New Jersey law on security deposits?
If you want to go right to the source and look up New Jersey law on security deposits -- or if you're writing a letter to your landlord or tenant and want to cite the applicable law -- the relevant statute(s) can be found at New Jersey Statutes Annotated §§ 46:8-19, 44:8-21, 44:8-26. Your city or county, particularly if your rental property is covered by rent control, might have different landlord-tenant and security deposit laws than those at the state level in New Jersey. For tips on looking up New Jersey state and local laws, check out Nolo's State Laws & Legal Research section.
For useful information on tenant rights in New Jersey, see the guide available at http://www.lsnjlaw.org/Publications/Pages/Manuals/TenantsRights.pdf.