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Golbin v. Iafrate


December 14, 2009


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Special Civil Part, Bergen County, Docket No. SC-4267-08.

Per curiam.


Submitted November 30, 2009

Before Judges Baxter and Coburn.

Plaintiff Mikhail Golbin, the tenant of residential property, sued defendant Ralph Iafrate, as landlord, in the Special Civil Part, Small Claims Section. Golbin alleged that after he and his family vacated the leased premises, Iafrate wrongfully withheld $1,550 from the security deposit. After taking sworn testimony from the parties, plaintiff's wife, and a co-owner of the property, the judge ruled in favor of defendant and entered judgment dismissing the complaint. Plaintiff appeals.

After considering the record and briefs, we are satisfied that none of the arguments offered by plaintiff have sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion, R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E). Nonetheless, we add the following comments.

Plaintiff's first point is that the landlord violated N.J.S.A. 46:8-21.1 by failing, in his letter returning a portion of the security deposit within the requisite thirty days, to itemize the deductions, as is required by that statute. In fact, the landlord listed over twenty specific items that he felt were not the result of ordinary wear and tear. However, he did not list the cost of repairing each item. Assuming that such a listing is required by the statute, plaintiff was not entitled to any relief. The statute only requires a doubling of the "net amount 'wrongfully withheld,' not double the amount of the initial deposit." Penbara v. Straczynski, 347 N.J. Super. 155, 160 (App. Div. 2002) (citations omitted). The Penbara court also noted that if a court determines that "there is no deposit to return to the tenant," there is then "no valid basis for enforcing the notification requirements of the statute." Id. at 161. Here, the judge found that the landlord's damages exceeded the balance of the security deposit held by the landlord. Since that decision is supported by the record, the nature of the itemization is irrelevant.

Plaintiff's second point appears to be that the co-owner of the property should not have been permitted to testify, or represent defendant, because he had not sued her. Plaintiff concedes that this witness was a co-owner but claims that since he did not sue her, she should not have been allowed to testify. He offers no legal support for this contention, and we know of none that would buttress his claim in this regard.

Plaintiff's third point is that the judge erroneously denied his post-judgment motion to permit discovery so that he could retry his case. We affirm on this point for the reasons stated by the judge, who observed that there is no authority in our rules for such a discovery motion.

Plaintiff's last point is entitled "MOST GLARING CONTRADICTIONS FROM THE TRANSCRIPT." The point is presented without any legal argument or citation of authority. Assuming that its thrust is that the judgment is unsupported by the evidence, we affirm substantially for the reasons expressed by the trial judge. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(B).



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