Security Deposit Disputes
Serving You and The State of Florida
Tenant security deposits are regulated by Florida law, specifically Chapter 83.49 of the Florida Statutes. The statute maintains strict rules on the collecting, retaining, and returning of security deposits.
Is There A Florida Security Deposit Limit?
Unfortunately, Florida landlord-tenant law does not restrict the amount the landlord can charge a security deposit. While there are no limits, the landlords, in most cases, will not charge a security deposit greater than two months of rental.
Property owners understand that excessive deposit amounts will instead cause future tenants to examine other rentals. One to two months’ rent is adequate to protect the landlord’s property from damage, eviction, and vacancy without restricting a potential tenant’s interest in the property.
Why Do Landlords Require A Security Deposit Before Signing A Lease?
Security deposits ensure that a landlord is partially compensated for any loss caused by the tenant, such as unpaid rent or property damage beyond normal wear and tear.
The following are among the reasons why lenders request a security deposit from tenants:
- Excessive property damage: As previously stated, security deposits help provide a financial cushion for property damage repairs. Damages above normal wear and tear are considered excessive, but this is often a point of contention in landlord-tenant relationships when it is time to refund the security deposit.
- To cover utility bills – Some rental costs are the landlord’s responsibility, while others are the tenant. The landlord has the right to deduct the reasonable costs of utilities from the tenant’s security deposit if the tenant fails to pay these costs before moving out.
- Covering for lost rental income: A landlord’s rental income can be lost in various ways. For example, if a tenant abandons the unit or chooses to break their lease early. In this case, the security deposit acts as a buffer against the loss of income. Rental income is also lost if necessary repairs due to damages caused by the tenant result in time off the market for the property.
- High cleaning costs: Most leases specify the condition in which a tenant must leave the property when vacating.
If a tenant fails to meet these requirements, the landlord may deduct a portion of the security deposit to pay for the cleaning service’s cost.
Florida’s Security Deposit Holdings
When it comes to storing security deposits in an account, Florida landlords have three options:
- They can deposit the security deposit in a non-interest-bearing account at a Florida bank. This account cannot be used for anything else besides security deposits.
- Landlords also have the option of keeping the money in an interest-bearing account in a Florida bank. In this scenario, the landlord must credit the tenant with either 75 percent of the account’s interest. Or 5% simple interest per year on the security deposit amount.
- The owner may choose to post a surety bond from a security company authorized in the county by the circuit court office where the unit is located. The surety bond can be for the amount of the security deposit, or $50,000, whichever amount is smaller.
In addition to the bond, the owner must pay 5% of the simple annual interest on the deposit amount. The conditions are the landlord fulfilling the security deposit obligations such as holding, accounting, and returning.
If the landlord is renting in five or more counties, the landlord may post a bond with the Secretary of State for $250,000 or the total amount of all security deposits held instead of posting a bond in each county.
If the landlord rents out five or more individual residential units, they must provide the occupant with written notice of how they will keep the security deposits.
After obtaining the security deposit, the landlord has 30 days to decide how to keep it and inform the occupant of the information. On the other hand, the landlord can predetermine keeping and including the requisite written notice in the lease or rental agreement.
The written notice must be given in person or by mail and should include the following items:
- The monetary value of the security deposit earned
- If they deposited the security deposit in a bank or institution, the bank or institution’s name and address where they deposited it
- If the landlord chose to post a bond, a statement stating that the landlord has posted a surety bond under the rule
- A statement stating whether or not the occupant is eligible for interest on the security deposit
Change In Security Deposit Holding
If a landlord decides to change the way the security deposit is held, they have 30 days from the change date to notify the tenant in writing. This change can include the landlord transferring the funds to a new bank or bank account.
Returning Security Deposits in Florida
Timeline: If there are no deductions, the homeowner has 15 days from the day the occupant vacates the unit to refund the security deposit. If the landlord wants to make deductions, the tenant must give written notice of deductions to the tenant.
Refusal to Return the Security Deposit on Time: There is no explicit penalty under Florida statutes for the landlord’s failure to return the security deposit. However, if the landlord fails or refuses to return it, the occupant has the right to sue the landlord. If the tenant wins the suit, they are entitled to the damages of the action and fair attorney’s fees.
The Lopez Law Group has extensive experience in helping Florida tenants get their security deposit back. Contact us for a case evaluation about your options if you feel your landlord has kept your security deposit unjustly.
If There Have Been Any Deductions From The Deposit
Landlords have 30 days after the lease’s termination to notify the tenant in writing their intention to keep a portion of the security deposit. The landlord loses the right to keep any portion of the security deposit if he fails to notify the tenant in writing within 30 days.
The Florida Statute recommends using a clause like this:
This is a notice of my intent to levy a claim for damages in the sum of___________ against your security deposit as a result of________________. Section 83.49(3) of the Florida Statutes mandates that it be sent to you. If you do not object in writing to this deduction from your security deposit within 15 days of receiving this notice. In that case, I will be allowed to deduct my claim from your security deposit. Send your dispute to (Landlord’s address).
The written notification should be delivered by registered mail to the tenant’s address. The tenant must give a mailing address to the landlord. If they do not, the landlord is not obligated to give written notice of the security deposit to the occupant. The occupant would then have 15 days after getting the notice to contest the claims or charges.
When The Tenant Does Not Object To The Charges
If the tenant does not object to the charges, the landlord subtracts the sums specified in the written notice and refunds the security deposit’s remainder. And within 30 days of the date of the written notice.
Forfeiture Of The Tenant’s Right To Written Notice
If the lease has no fixed period or if the lease has a fixed term, and the tenant wishes to terminate it early, they must provide the landlord with at least seven days written notice before vacating the unit.
The tenant is responsible for ensuring that the landlord is provided a valid mailing address where they can be contacted. Failure to provide a valid mailing address relieves the landlord of the obligation to provide the tenant with notice written notice of deductions from their security deposit.
If The Tenant Objects To The Claim
The case can end up in court. If your landlord refused to refund all or part of your security deposit or did not follow the guidelines for doing so, contact the Lopez Law Group for advice on how to proceed. Litigating a security deposit case can be costly, so we are often able to resolve these issues outside of court.
When Can A Landlord Deduct My Security Deposit Deductions In Florida?
The landlord must follow the rules when deducting any other amounts from the tenant’s security deposit. The following items may be deducted from a security deposit in Florida:
- Rent arrears
- The amount of money lost as a result of the tenant’s breach of the lease.
- Repair costs for damage to the unit that isn’t caused by normal wear and tear
- Charges that can be deducted under the terms of the lease, such as early termination fee
- Cleaning or repairs necessitated by a pet when the landlord did not give explicit permission for a pet to be on the premises
Damage vs. “Standard Wear and Tear”
The term “damage” refers to the destruction caused by a tenant’s misconduct or neglect during the tenancy, affecting the rental unit’s usability, value, and normal function. Damage includes pet damage (heavily scratched and torn carpet), damaged tiles, holes on walls, shattered windows, and lost accessories.
“Normal wear and tear” apply to the degradation of the property that occurs when the property is used as it was intended to be used and only when that deterioration occurs without neglect, carelessness, mistake, misuse, or violence by the tenant or the people the tenant brings there.
There are minor problems that arise, such as aging and anticipated deterioration resulting from daily life. For example, worn carpets, missing door handles, faded wall paint and flooring, stained bath appliances, slightly damaged glass, filthy grout, and mold.
Is It Possible For The Tenant To Use The Deposit To Pay The Previous Month’s Rent?
Not usually, but it can be done if both parties sign a written agreement that the security deposit will be applied to the rent owed.
How Do I Prove That I Did Not Cause the Damages?
It is always a good idea to take photos or videos of the unit’s state when you move into a rental home and again when moving out. Date-stamped photos act as evidence of the rental property’s condition if you go to court or when dealing with the landlord.
Walk around the house with the landlord to make a list of any issues at move-in, so you aren’t held responsible when you leave. Take some photos/recordings when all of your possessions have been moved out and the house has been swept. Litigation is expensive to file.
If a security deposit case goes to court and the court determines that the landlord wrongfully withheld your security deposit, they may be ordered to:
- Refund your security deposit
- Pay all court expenses
- Pay your attorney fees
This provision is intended to provide tenants access to the legal system to settle security deposit issues that they would not be able to resolve otherwise. Landlords who refuse to meet these policies can be held liable for the deposit funds, as well as expenses and attorney’s fees that far outweigh the value of the deposit they want to keep.
We encourage you to contact us to check your documents if you are a landlord collecting advance rental or safety loans to make sure you are complying with the law. Landlords who are facing court action for failing to return a security deposit should contact the Lopez Law Group for an examination of their case.
If you think a landlord has wrongfully withheld your security deposit, contact us today for a case evaluation to help you reclaim your deposit. We will handle your case on a contingency basis, meaning we only get paid if we successfully retrieve your deposit.
The lawyers at the Lopez Law Group are ready to evaluate your claim and fight to recover the money you rightfully deposited. Call us at (727) 933-0115 today.
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