Is vacation housing a rental premise or unit used for dwelling premises as contemplated by the Rent Security Deposit Act, N.J.S.A. 46:8-19 et seq., so as to bring the penalty provision into play. The court thinks not.
This issue comes to the court by way of application for the entry of default judgment. On March 31, 1985 plaintiff, Brian Rogers, entered into a seasonal lease with defendants, Peter
and Norma Donovan. Plaintiff was to occupy certain premises located at Long Beach Boulevard, North Beach, New Jersey, for a period of two weeks beginning August 3, 1985 and ending August 17, 1985. The total rent due for this two-week period was $3,400, utilities included. Under the terms of the written agreement, plaintiff was required to pay a $200 security deposit, a $50 cleaning deposit, and a $100 telephone deposit. On the day of occupancy, plaintiff was to check in by 2:00 p.m. and check out by 11:00 a.m. In addition to the utilities, "linens, blankets, and other such items the tenant desires" were included. All appliances and possibly a television were available for plaintiff's use.
Plaintiff alleges that he has fully complied with all terms and conditions of the lease, and that notwithstanding his compliance and due demand for the return of the deposit, defendants have failed to return said monies. Plaintiff further asserts that defendants failed to notify him of any damage done to the premises after the expiration of the lease either within the 72 hours specified in the contract or the 30-day statutory period, if applicable.
In reliance upon the penalty section of New Jersey's security deposit law, plaintiff seeks judgment in the amount of $989.90 which represents double the deposit monies of $350 or $700, $20.50 in interest, attorney's fees in the amount of $250 and court costs of $19.40.
In his letter brief, plaintiff relies on the language of the statute in asserting that it applies to short-term vacation rentals as well as long-term leases. In order for plaintiff to prevail the court must find that the Legislature meant to include this type of housing in the statute and that plaintiff has successfully proved its case under the statute.
It is uncontroverted that the philosophy of the Rent Security Deposit Act is to protect tenants from overreaching landlords who seek to defraud tenants by diverting rent security deposits to their own use. Jaremback v. Butler Ridge Apartments, 166 N.J. Super. 84, 87 (App.Div.1979); Watson v. Jaffe, 121 N.J. Super. 213, 214
(App.Div.1972); Branch Brook Gardens v. Ramirez, 186 N.J. Super. 241, 243 (Cty.D.Ct.1982). The statute provides:
The provisions of this act shall apply to all rental premises or units used for dwelling purposes except owner-occupied premises with not more than two rental units where the tenant has failed to provide 30 days written notice to the landlord invoking the provisions of this act. [ N.J.S.A. 46:8-26]
Under the canons of statutory construction, a court's duty in construing the language of a statute is to determine the intent of the Legislature, AMN, Inc. v. South Brunswick Leveling Bd., 93 N.J. 518, 525 (1983), and to enforce the legislative will as written. Dacunzo v. Edgye, 19 N.J. 443, 451 (1955) and Hoffman v. Hock, 8 N.J. 397 (1952) cited in Salb v. Lemoine Ave. Associates, 178 N.J. Super. 36, 40 (App.Div.1981). The statute does not explicitly include or exclude vacation housing within its ambit nor is there any case law on point. Thus, in construing this section, the task of the court is to seek out the legislative intent, and to that ...