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CentralNJLandlord

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 Hello,

I am a landlord in Central NJ. I recently had a tenant vacate my property on 9/4/14. The tenant resided in my property from 6/2009-9/4/14. The tenant's security deposit was $2025.00. The tenant is now suing me for $4500 for failure to pay her deposit back to her. The security deposit was actually paid by Social Services. I emailed, mailed by certified mail, and next day mailed with return receipt a letter of explanation of the security deposit along with itemized damages to the tenant as required within 30 days of the tenant vacating the property. The tenant did not answer pickup either letter (notice was left on her door). She called me when she received the email. At that time I asked for her forwarding address so that I could mail her a certified letter however, as I stated before she did not pick up from the post office both letters I mailed to her.

This was a nightmare tenant. While the tenant resided in my property I had to repair every door in the property except the bathroom and main bedroom door. I had to actually replace the front door because the tenant's boyfriend and father of her child was selling drugs out of the property and the police knocked down the front door looking for him (they would not open the door when the police knocked on the door). I have a police report from the incident as well as proof that the boyfriend was convicted of selling drugs to undercover cops out of my property. The carpet was hideous. The carpet could not be cleaned. I don't think she ever vacuumed or cleaned the carpet. To make a long story short the total damages was in excess of the $2025.00 paid on her behalf for the security deposit by social services.

I am a bit concerned about the lack of protection for landlords in NJ and the right for tenants to sue for double the security deposit if it is not returned within 30 days. I have all receipts for all damages including carpet (carpet damage was beyond wear and tear. I did not charge her for the carpet but I did charge for 1/3 of cost of replacement).

What are my chances of winning in court? I am not familiar with all the landlord/tenant laws in NJ.
Cece1975

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Posts: 7
Reply with quote  #2 
Hello... I'm in Central NJ also.  I won't pretend to have extensive experience yet (you can see my other posts asking for advice lately), but I will say I have tried to read up on NJ eviction laws lately, having had similar unfortunate experiences as you.  I believe you have a good chance of winning in court, as you have made concerted attempts to contact her by certified mail of your intent to keep her deposit, and why (in the form of the itemized list), all within the 30 day time frame.  What I've been told is to keep the returned certified letters, unopened, as part of your evidence for court.  DOCUMENT EVERYTHING.  If possible, take video of the damages, if not too late.  Police reports, all the better.  So long as you have reasonable costs for repairs and your documentation of attempt to serve her notice with her deposit (also keep any emails where you mention attempts to discover her forwarding address and she tried to duck you), you should be OK and not liable for double deposit countersuits.  It's clear she was a nightmare tenant, and if you have evidence of that, it should become clear in court.

More info on Landlord/Tenant laws of NJ (not a landlord-friendly state, unfortunately, though I think you are still protected in this extreme case)

http://www.state.nj.us/dca/divisions/codes/publications/pdf_lti/t_i_r.pdf

PS: Also understand that in NJ, it is legal to record phone conversations for evidence in court, as long as one of the two parties involved in conversation (that could include you) is aware of the recording.  She would not have to be.  I have had to do this to our last evicted problem tenant to gather evidence of her lying, too.

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