We Understand The Ins And Outs Of Real Estate Law

Can a landlord keep a deposit for normal wear and tear?

On Behalf of | May 11, 2024 | Landlord Rights

When a new renter signs a lease, the landlord will typically ask for a security deposit. This deposit may be given back at the end of the lease. It’s supposed to be used in case anything major occurs in the apartment and needs to be repaired. 

Under New Jersey law, the landlord cannot keep the security deposit if the only damage to the apartment is considered normal wear and tear. It must be more substantial and unexpected. If the landlord does keep the deposit over normal wear and tear, they could face legal action from the tenant. 

What is normal wear and tear?

Normal wear and tear essentially just means that a rental space is expected to take a certain amount of light damage just because someone lives there.

For example, maybe there are small holes in the wall from where the tenant hung up pictures. Maybe there are minor scrapes on the floor from moving furniture around. Perhaps the carpeting is worn at the top of the stairs or in other high-traffic areas.

Some landlords will try to keep security deposits in a situation like this, claiming that they need to repaint the apartment or replace the carpeting. But these minor issues are not what the deposit is intended for, and it should only be used for more serious damage – such as a broken window, broken flooring tiles, holes in the plaster or drywall, and things of this nature.

The relationship between landlords and tenants can sometimes grow contentious and both sides need to be aware of their legal options should a dispute arise.