Cagle v. Estate of Rapisardi

A-5472-98T2 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2000) (Unpublished)
  • Opinion Date: March 30, 2000

LANDLORD-TENANT; SECURITY DEPOSITS—Only the portion of a tenant’s security deposit that is “wrongfully held” shall be doubled if the landlord doesn’t return it within 30 days, but before doubling, the court must deduct what is owed to the landlord.

After vacating an apartment one month before the end of the lease term, a tenant filed suit for return of its security deposit. In response, the landlord sought compensation for late charges, the final month’s rent, and repairs. The landlord also sought attorneys’ fees and costs pursuant to the express terms of the lease. The lower court found that the parties had agreed orally to terminate the lease term early and also found that the landlord was entitled to an amount for repairs that was less than the deposit. The judge first doubled the entire security deposit and then deducted the repair amount. On appeal, the landlord contended that the lower court had improperly doubled the amount of the security deposit. The Court agreed, pointing out that the lower court should double only that portion of the security deposit that was “wrongfully withheld.” The applicable statute allows for “recovery of double the amount of said monies… .” According to the Court, the language “said monies” is the amount of the deposit, plus interest, less any permissible charges.