The New Jersey security deposit law is known as The Rent Security Deposit Act. This Act spells out the rules for collecting, holding and returning a security deposit to a tenant. In addition to this statewide law, it is also wise to check with the local county or town where your investment property is located to determine if there are additional laws in effect for your specific area.
Is There a Security Deposit Limit in New Jersey?
Yes. In New Jersey, a landlord can charge no more than one and a half month’s rent as a security deposit. The landlord can raise the security deposit to coincide with a rent increase, but cannot ask for more than a 10 percent increase in the security deposit in any given year.
How Must You Store The Security Deposit in New Jersey?
Landlords in New Jersey have two options for storing a tenant’s security deposit:
- Money Market Fund- A landlord is allowed to invest the security deposit in a money market fund as long as the investment company is based in New Jersey, is registered under the "Investment Company Act of 1940,” has shares that are registered under the "Securities Act of 1933 and the fund has a maturity date of a year or less.
- Interest-Bearing Bank Account- Landlords who own 10 or more units must place the security deposit in a bank account that pays interest equal to or greater than the interest paid on the bank’s money market accounts. Landlords who own fewer than 10 units need only to place the money in an interest-bearing bank account, there is no specific requirement as to the interest rate.
The landlord is required to pay the tenant the interest or the earnings generated on their security deposit annually. If the tenant wishes, they can instead have this amount credited toward their next month’s rent.
In New Jersey, if a landlord does not store a tenant’s deposit in the proper account, the tenant may provide written notice that they want the landlord to use their security deposit plus seven percent interest to pay their rent. The landlord is not able to ask for any additional security deposit.
Is Written Notice Required After Receipt of the Security Deposit in New Jersey?
Yes. There are four separate instances when a landlord must notify the tenant in writing regarding their security deposit:
- Within 30 days of receiving the security deposit- Landlords are allowed to include this notice as part of the lease agreement. If the security deposit terms are included in a security deposit lease clause, no additional written notice is necessary.
- Within 30 days of moving the security deposit to a different bank or money market fund.
- Once a year coinciding with the annual interest payment.
- Within 30 days of transferring ownership of the property.
This written notice should include:
- Name of the bank or investment company.
- Address of the bank or investment company.
- The type of account where the security deposit is invested or deposited.
- The interest rate.
- The amount of security deposit.
- The signature of the landlord or landlord’s agent.
If the landlord does not pay the tenant the interest the tenant is entitled to or fails to provide written notice when they are required to by law, the tenant can provide written notice that the landlord must do so. After receiving this written notice, if the landlord does not follow through within 30 days, the tenant’s security deposit may be used as rent and the landlord is not allowed to request an additional deposit.
What Are Some Reasons You Can Keep a Tenant’s Security Deposit in New Jersey?
A landlord may be able to keep all or a part of a tenant’s security deposit for the following reasons:
- Unpaid rent.
- Damage to the property in excess of normal wear and tear.
The landlord is not allowed to make any deductions from the security deposit until the tenant has moved out of the unit.
When Must You Return a Tenant’s Security Deposit in New Jersey?
- 30 Days: In New Jersey, a landlord must return the security deposit within 30 days after tenant move out or lease termination. Any accumulated interest or earnings must also be returned. If the landlord has deducted anything from the security deposit, the landlord must include an itemized list of such deductions.
- 15 Days: If a tenant has ended their lease because they are a victim of domestic violence, the landlord has 15 days to return the security deposit.
- 5 Days: If a tenant has been displaced due to a floor, fire, evacuation or condemnation of property, the landlord is required to return the security deposit within 5 days.
What Happens to the Security Deposit if You Sell Your Property?
In the event that you sell your property, it is your responsibility to transfer the security deposits to the new owner along with any interest accrued within 5 days. You must also notify the tenants of the transfer of their security deposit to the new owner within 30 days by registered or certified mail. You must include the new owner’s name and address. Even if you have not transferred the security deposits to the new owner, the new owner is still responsible for returning the deposit to the tenant plus any accrued interest.