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Garcia v. Tzezairlidis

A-4954-98T3 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2000) (Unpublished)

LANDLORD-TENANT; SECURITY DEPOSITS—Good faith by a landlord is not a defense to the doubling of unreturned residential security deposits.

A condominium unit owner reached an agreement with its tenant regarding early termination of their lease with the understanding that the deposit would be returned subject to deduction for any damage to the property. The tenant, however, did not leave at the agreed-upon time. The landlord then sent the tenant a small check representing what the landlord claimed was the balance due from the deposit after deducting next month’s rent, the cost to repair alleged damages to the premises, and a small previous balance. The lower court found that the landlord was entitled to the extra month’s rent, but in a slightly lower amount than claimed. It also found the landlord did not establish its right to the previous balance nor to the claimed damage. As a consequence, the lower court held that the landlord should have returned a larger amount, and in accordance with statute it doubled the damages and added court costs. On appeal, the landlord contended that the lower court should not have doubled the damages because it had made a good faith calculation of the amount of the deposit to be returned. The Appellate Division not only found that the landlord had failed to establish that its deductions were made in good faith, but noted “that even if good faith was present, the doubling of damages was required” by statute.

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