State law protects renters throughout New Jersey who fear their security deposit might be washed away with the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.
The Security Deposit Law, as it is called in New Jersey, forces landlords to return a tenant's security deposit within five days of the tenant's displacement due to disasters such as Hurricane Sandy. Specifically, the law pertains to flood, condemnation, evacuation or fire.
In places such as Belmar and Manasquan, where summer and year-round rentals make up a sizeable portion of the population, the local government is helping distribute information on what tenants' rights are.
Belmar has distributed a summary of the law on its website: "The law requires the (security deposit) return when either an authorized public official has posted the premises with a notice prohibiting occupancy, or any building inspector, in consultation with a relocation officer, where applicable, has certified within 48 hours that displacement is expected to continue longer than seven (7) days and has notified the owner or lessee in writing."
Even the issue of how to send the security deposit back to a tenant who has no home is addressed by the law. If the tenant is displaced, homeless or now living elsewhere the law states the landlord must do the following:
"Within three (3) business days after receiving notification of the displacement, the landlord shall provide written notice to a displaced tenant, by personal delivery or mail to the tenant’s last known address, indicating when and where the tenant’s security deposit will be available for return. If the last known address for the tenant is at the property that is no longer habitable, the landlord shall post notices at each exterior entrance of the property. The landlord may make arrangements to have the municipal clerk hold the security deposit so that the tenant may collect it at the clerk’s office. If the tenant does not collect the security deposit within 30 days, it shall be re-deposited or reinvested by the landlord in the same bank from which it was withdrawn."
Now that 30 days has passed since Hurricane Sandy, many of those unclaimed security deposits will now be redeposited into their respective banks. Also, if the residency become livable again and the tenant moves bank in, the security deposit is again due back to the landlord.
The Security Deposit Law applies to most residential rental properties, including mobile homes. The exception is owner-occupied two- or three-family dwellings.
The law and other protections for tenants and landlords are explained on the state Department of Community Affairs website: www.state.nj.us/dca and follow the highlights link for “landlord tenant information.