Legal Question in Real Estate Law in New Jersey

Following is an outline of a situation I have concerning the return of a security deposit from a house rental.

The lease was for a residential property in the State of New Jersey and was on a New Jersey real estate brokers lease form. The rental was listed with a real estate company and I rented through the same real estate company and listing associate. I am unsure as to the legal aspects of my situation and looking for an opinion as to the potential of perusing the return of my deposit. Researching the New Jersey laws as to leases it appears I have the potential to recoup my security deposit equal to two times the amount but unsure based on the lease term and manner in which I left the property. Your advice as to my status is greatly appreciated.

I signed a one year lease in May, 2011 for a single family home. At the signing of the lease I paid one month rent of $1,500.00, a one and one half month security deposit of $2,250.00 and a one month realtor finder fee of $1,500.00.

I was contacted by a note from the landlord for my information to open a security deposit account. I provided the information with the following month’s rental payment. I never received any confirmation as to where the security deposit was being held and I never perused where the security was being held.

On July 30, 2011 I lost my job.

August, 2011 I had to make several partial payments for rent as I was waiting for unemployment to be approved and I was short on money at time the rent was due.I Included a note to the landlord that I would get caught up but did not disclose I had lost my job.

September 2011 I walked into my bedroom to find a live snake on the floor.

The following week I had trouble with the water heater and contacted the landlord. The landlord sent a plumber and during conversation with the plumber I told him about my snake encounter. The plumber proceeded to tell me of an encounter he had with snakes nesting in the attic of this house previously when he had been at the house working and had to go in the attic. The plumber said at that time the landlord had to have the snakes removed by a professional.

The week after I had the conversation with the plumber I received an e-mail from the landlord stating he and his wife are having doubts about the lease with me as I still am not up to date with the rent. (I have still been making partial payments)

I responded to the landlord that I too was having doubts and explained about my finding of the snake and the conversation with the plumber about his encounter with snakes at the house. I explained in the e-mail that I am petrified of snakes and if he had disclosed this to me I would have never rented the place and that I could not stay in the house for my own sanity or that of having my two young girls in the house taking a chance they would also encounter a snake and that I would be vacating by October 15, 2011 or sooner if possible.

I got an e-mail response that the snake issue had been a while ago and based on the time why would they have had to tell me about it. There was never an objection to me saying I was moving out or that he would not return my security deposit when I did.

The landlord and I had several e-mails from this point as to the status of my moving at which I advised I would be out by October 1, 2011. I proceeded to move out and as of October 1st I only had items left in the garage. I e-mailed the landlord explaining this and advised I would have all items removed from the property by October 3 or 4.

I proceeded to do this and sent an e-mail saying I was completely out and that I had left a note with info for him on the counter in the kitchen. This note had information about some repairs I had observed he should attend to, a snake skin I had found on the kitchen floor the day before vacating permanently to prove I had an issue with snakes in the house, my forwarding address and a prorated security deposit calculation for return of my security less the outstanding rental amount still owed. I did not receive a response and sent another e-mail regarding the security deposit.

The only response from the landlord was an e-mail stating basically “too bad, refer to your lease page 2” which pretty much meant that they never agreed to breaking the lease term prior to the year end and I was not going to get any security deposit return.

I never received any other written explanation concerning the non return of the security deposit. During this entire process I was never served with any paperwork that I was in default of the lease for late payments or paperwork seeking continued rent after I had moved out. I had taken the e-mails as what appeared to be an agreement by the landlord as to breaking the lease and my vacating the property.

Asked on 1/01/12, 6:31 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Barry Gartenberg Barry F. Gartenberg LLC

I'd need to review the lease and we'd need to speak before I can advise you. Please feel free to contact me ASAP so that we may explore your options and protect your legal rights. 973-921-0600.

Kindly note and remember that my response is merely a general comment on the law related to your question, and NOT legal advice or opinion. Also, your question and my response does NOT create an attorney-client relationship between us. You cannot rely upon what I have written, because I do not have all of the information that I need to advise you or render an opinion. Even simple facts you have not shared can completely change my answer. For me to give you legal advice or opinion, you would need to hire me to be your lawyer, and then we would need to discuss this in detail and go over the documents.

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Answered on 1/02/12, 6:22 am

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