Even though largely unwanted and inconvenient, legal disputes about money are a frequent part of everyday life – both for business and individuals. One of the most common disputes we see involves tenants suing their landlords for the return of their security deposit. As a landlord, having basic knowledge about such disputes can help you both avoid unnecessary legal battles and effectively protect your rights if you find yourself in the middle of one. In this article, we will briefly analyze 4 common security deposit disputes.
1. Landlord Decides to Keep the Deposit for Wrong Reasons
According to Florida state law, landlords may have valid reasons to withhold the security deposit. Such reasons include:
- Non-payment of rent (the deposit will be kept to cover the unpaid rent)
- Certain violations of the lease agreement (depending on the wording of the lease)
- Damage to the property in excess of normal wear and tear (the deposit will be kept to cover the costs of repairs)
- Unpaid utilities (the deposit will be kept to cover the unpaid bills)
If a landlord tries to keep the deposit for reasons that aren’t lawful, the tenant may sue to recover the deposit, as well as legal fees.
2. Landlord Doesn’t Comply with Rules for Returning Deposits
Florida state law also clearly specifies the correct procedure a landlord must follow if they have valid reasons to withhold the deposit. Most importantly, a landlord must meet a strict deadline for returning the deposit or providing notice that the landlord intends to keep all or a portion of the deposit. If the landlord decides to keep a part of the deposit, the landlord must provide the tenant with advanced notice and itemize the intended deductions. If the landlord fails to meet the deadlines or to follow the procedure stipulated by the law, the tenant may sue the landlord with a high chance of winning the dispute.
3. Tenant Doesn’t Agree with the Deductions
As mentioned, a landlord may decide to make a deduction and withhold a part of the deposit to balance out the expenses related to the damage caused by the tenant or to cover abnormal cleaning costs. However, a tenant may dispute the amount of such a deduction. For example, the tenant may argue that the damage to the property is due to normal everyday use or that the claimed deduction is much higher than the reasonable costs of the repairs. In any case, if the sides don’t manage to work out an agreement, the matter may go to court.
4. Security Deposit Doesn’t Cover the Damage or Unpaid Rent
If the amount of the security deposit transferred by the tenant to the landlord at the time of the initial move-in isn’t sufficient to cover the expenses related to back rent, cleaning, or repairs, the landlord must provide the tenant with a demand letter. This letter should itemize the costs, state the amount the landlord is claiming, and mention a clear deadline to pay the outstanding amount. The demand should also inform the tenant that he or she will face legal action upon failure to comply with the demand. If the letter isn’t met with the expected action on the part of the tenant, the landlord may decide to take the matter to a small claims court.
Contact Atlas Law With Regards to Your Security Deposit Dispute
The attorneys at Atlas Law represent landlords in their security deposit disputes and claims. If you are currently facing such a dispute and you feel that your legal rights are being violated, please contact us without delay. We will schedule a consultation with you where an experienced attorney will analyze your case and inform you about your legal options.