Tenants in Florida have certain rights when it comes to their security deposits. The following is an overview of the law that governs the return and/or claims to security deposits in Florida. The law Florida Statute 83, section 49, governs the process for recovering a security deposit.
Although many Landlords and Tenants are fair with each other, I have run into some uncomfortable situations. I asked my friend Russ Jacobs, a real estate attorney, to give me some rules about laws as it relates to the return of security deposits.
Q: When must a landlord return a security deposit to the tenant?
A: According to the strict procedures laid out in Florida Statute Section 83.49, the landlord must either:
a) return the security deposit within 15 days after the tenant moves out; or
b) within 30 days from the move out date and notify the tenant in Writing by
certified mail to the tenant’s last known mailing address of the landlord’s intention to impose a claim on the deposit. The Landlord must provide detailed reasons for imposing the claim.
Q: What are the Tenant’s options after they receive the landlord’s written notification?
A: After the tenant receives the notification from the landlord notifying them of the intent to claim rights to the deposit held, the tenant has 15 days to object to the claim. The objection must be in writing and sent via certified mail. If the tenant fails to object within the 15 days, then the landlord may proceed to apply the security deposit to the damages claimed.
Q: What happens when the Landlord fails to give the required notice within the 30-day period?
A: The landlord forfeits the right to make a claim upon the security deposit and may not seek a setoff against the deposit, however the Landlord may file an action for damages in a court of law after the return of the deposit. But, the most important point is that regardless of whether Landlord has legitimate reasons to claim rights to the security deposit, landlord must act within the required time period or return the deposit to the tenant.
Q: What happens when the Landlord neither notifies nor returns the deposit to the tenant within the required period in Florida or where there is a dispute over the amount due?
A: When the landlord fails to return the deposit or there is a dispute over the amount due, the tenant may proceed to file a lawsuit. The tenant can either hire a landlord-tenant attorney or file without an attorney. If the amount intended to be recovered is less than $5,000, the tenant can file lawsuit in a Florida Small claims court.>Under Florida law, if either the landlord or the tenant files lawsuit to claim rights to the security deposit, the prevailing party has the right to recover his or her court costs plus a reasonable fee for his or her attorney. Landlords or Tenants who fail to follow the required procedures outlined above might find themselves in situations where court costs and attorney’s fees might be significantly more than the amount of the security deposit.
Ensure that you have a knowledgeable realtor and attorney, so in the event there are issues with the security deposit, there are people in your corner.
Russ can be contacted at Russ@TheJacobsLawGroup.com or 305.405.4444.
Here’s to an enjoyable leasing experience.