Disputes between landlords and tenants in FLorida arise frequently. The most common type of dispute revolves around the security deposit. The security deposit is money that is kept in an account held by the landlord to use, only if, the tenant causes damage to a rental property that exceeds normal wear and tear. I could go on and on about what is or what is not considered normal wear and tear, but that is not the focus of this article. In this article I would like to discuss exactly what a landlord must do to lawfully withhold a security deposit. Florida law is quite strict. Florida Statute Section 83.49 delineates the procedure landlords must follow.
A Florida landlord, whether it be Miami or Tampa, who intends to return the security deposit in full must return it within 15 days upon the tenant vacating the property upon termination of the lease. If the landlord intends to withhold the entire security deposit or a portion thereof, the landlord must send the tenant a certified letter explaining the reasons of keeping the deposit within 30 days of the tenant vacating the property. The certified letter must be sent to the tenant’s last known address. If that is the property then it is the property and the landlord can expect the certified letter will be forwarded to the tenant’s new address, however it is best to get the tenant’s next address upon move out. The certified letter must include specific language that is laid out in Florida Statute Section 83.49. Failure to follow this language can be argued as a waiver of the deposit.
If the landlord does not comply with the deadlines in Florida Statute Section 83.49 or does not comply with the language in the letter, or does not comply with the rule that the letter be sent via certified mail, the landlord waives his or her right to keep the deposit. A tenant can argue any of these issues in court and the court will grant a motion for summary judgment, order that the landlord return the security deposit and that the landlord pay the tenant’s attorneys fees.
So, if you are a landlord in Florida, please take heed to the statute before deciding to keep a security deposit because if you do not properly comply with the law, you could end up paying a lot more money than the value of the security deposit.