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Richardson v. Hazara

A-6035-03T5 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2005) (Unpublished)

LANDLORD-TENANT; SECURITY DEPOSITS—A tenant who does not complain about the amount shown for security deposit in a letter sent by a new landlord waives his or her right to contest the amount to be returned when the tenant vacates the property.

A tenant sued to recover her security deposit. The landlord had purchased the property “six years after” the tenant had moved in. At the time of its purchase, the buyer sent a notice to the tenant setting forth its understanding as to the amount of security deposit being held. It also invited the tenant to tell it if the amount was correct. The tenant did not respond. After the lower court entered a judgment in the tenant’s favor, the landlord appealed, arguing among other things, “the evidence did not support the judgment” and that the tenant held over beyond the date on which she agreed to leave.

The Appellate Division held that there was inadequate support for the lower court’s conclusion that the tenant paid a certain amount “at the commencement of her tenancy.” Examining the trial record, it found that the receipts presented at trial “did not indicate the purpose for which money in that amount was given by” the tenant to the original landlord. There were two “undesignated” receipts from the original landlord on the same day. One was a receipt signed by the former landlord for an amount that was considerably less than the amount found by the lower court. The receipt was “designated as: ‘Security for one month.’” Additionally, the Court found that the tenant waived her right “to contest the amount of her security deposit by failing to do so at the time” she acknowledged the new landlord had informed her by letter of the sum on deposit. Further, the Court found that the tenant “knew of her right to claim a security deposit in excess” of the amount claimed by the landlord, but “abandoned that right, either by design or indifference.” Therefore, it vacated the judgment and entered its own judgment in the tenant’s favor in a reduced amount.

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