Although most landlords are good and decent people, there is a small subset who break the rules. Unfortunately, I've found that the poorer one is, the more likely one is to be victimized by these "predator" landlords, or slumlords, as they're frequently called.
First of all, your security deposit cannot, ever, under any circumstances be in excess of 1.5 times your rent. If it is, this is illegal and improper and you should contact an attorney right away.
Second, the landlord needs to tell you where the security deposit went. Under NJ law, security deposits must be deposited into a special, interest-bearing bank account. The bank name, location and account number must be given to the tenant. This money must be placed into such an account within 30 days after the tenant moves in.
That said, many landlords are very informal and some of them actually pocket this money. This is illegal and doing so can result in serious criminal charges.
The security deposit exists so that the landlord can deduct/subtract money from it, so that he can fix various problems in the apartment---caused by you----after you leave. He can also use the security deposit to pay for owed rent, if you leave before the lease expires.
However, a landlord can't keep the security deposit, just because he wants to. use your security deposit to remodel the apartment, or fix stuff that would normally be called normal wear-and-tear.
If you move out in a legal manner, and you didn't damage your apartment, your landlord needs to return the security deposit to you.
If your landlord does not have a lawful claim to the security deposit, and he fails to return this to you within 30 days after you move out, you will then have a claim against the landlord. If you file a claim and prevail, the landlord will be required to pay you double the security deposit, as well as costs and sometimes even attorney's fees.
My South Jersey Law Office regularly serves the NJ communities of Camden, Bellmawr, Runnemede, Deptford, Westville, Gloucester Township (Blackwood, Glendora, Erial, Sicklerville, Blenheim, Lambs Terrace, Chews Landing, and Hilltop) and Washington Township, (Turnersville, Sewell, Hurffville, Grenloch, CrossKeys, Bunker Hill and Chapel Heights).
If you live in these areas, or any other area of South Jersey and have been charged too high of a security deposit, if your landlord hasn't informed you where your security deposit is being held, or if he is unjustly withholding your security deposit, then call my office for a free consultation.
I treat every client with extra-special care and go over the evidence and facts of their case, in-depth, so that no stone is unturned in their legal case.
Call us for quality, compassionate, and individualized representation: 856-873-3730