4 Types of Damages That Could Be Awarded in a Tenant’s Rights Case

As a landlord, one of the most important things you should do is stay abreast of tenant rights laws in Florida and in your specific municipality. Landlord-tenant disputes can be extremely costly, particularly if the court rules in favor of the tenant and orders you to pay damages plus attorney fees. Knowing exactly what the law says helps you stay within legal limits at all times. Several types of damages can be awarded in a tenant’s rights case, increasing the financial risk of a lawsuit for landlords.

1. Breach of Implied Warranty of Habitability

Tenants have the right to quiet enjoyment of a safe and habitable living environment. If a tenant can demonstrate that you, in any way, failed to keep the property livable, they could be awarded damages in a court case. You may have to refund any money they spent trying to repair the home, make it safer, or keep family members safe. Additionally, a judge may award punitive damages if they believe you showed wanton neglect and disregard for the tenant’s rights.  This is a very rare case, but it can become a concern if a landlord is aware of a dangerous condition on the property and the landlord doesn’t take steps to remedy the situation.  

2. Wrongful Eviction

Wrongful eviction is a common complaint in landlord-tenant cases. It is absolutely crucial to follow state and local laws to the letter when evicting a tenant. It does not matter how clear it is that they have no intention of paying rent or that they have otherwise violated the lease—you must still follow proper eviction procedures. Even if your reason for evicting is legally sound, going about it the wrong way can lead to serious financial consequences. The court may award the tenant money for moving expenses, lost income if they took time off to move, and refunded rent payments.  The most common claim for wrongful eviction occurs when a landlord simply changes the locks due to nonpayment. A landlord should never simply lock a tenant out of the property, as this will almost certainly lead to a wrongful eviction lawsuit. 

3. Medical Expenses

If a tenant’s primary complaint is the presence of mold, asbestos, lead paint, or other issues that either require landlord disclosure or make a unit uninhabitable, you could find yourself on the hook for medical expenses. These add up quickly, particularly if there are elderly residents or children living in the unit.  Moreover, due to Florida’s climate, landlords in Florida have to be ever vigilant regarding mold complaints or water intrusion in a unit. Repairing a leak without also remediating the water damage is a concern, as this increases the potential for a mold infestation Be sure to make sure your properties are leak free, and if you find a leak be sure to replace any wet or damaged materials.  

4. Destroyed Belongings

If an uninhabitable unit causes damage to a tenant’s belongings—for example, if mold ruins their entire wardrobe or a faulty refrigerator causes them to lose a week’s worth of groceries—you may be responsible for paying repair or replacement costs.
It’s important to take preventative steps to protect your rights and your property. Courts often tend to favor tenants, which makes it even more important that you do everything right when renting out a property, signing contracts, maintaining property, and evicting tenants. Consulting a lawyer who works in landlord advocacy can help you prevent problems and avoid court. Get personalized assistance by calling Atlas Law at 813-241-8269.

Providing a Livable Space: 6 Ways a Landlord Must Ensure Habitability

Under Florida law, landlords are obliged to provide habitable housing to their tenants. The term “implied warranty of habitability” indicates that landlords implicitly promise a safe, livable home by renting to tenants. In general, this refers to major repair needs that can affect a tenant’s safety, health, or ability to remain in their home. If a landlord does not fulfill their end of this agreement, a tenant may choose to sue the landlord, break their lease without penalty, or withhold rent. These are five of the most important ways in which a landlord must provide a safe and habitable home.

1. Maintain Common Areas

All common areas must be kept safe and clean by the landlord. This includes hallways, entryways, elevators, stairs, and laundry rooms. If the landlord hires a property manager to fulfill this obligation, it is ultimately their responsibility if the property manager fails to follow through.

2. Keep Structural Elements Safe

Core structural elements of a property include the foundation, walls, roof, and stairs. All structural components must be safe. In Florida, roof leaks are a common habitability concern, as the humidity can cause the rapid spread of mildew and mold.

3. Provide Water and Heat

Residents have a right to usable water and heat. Water—both cold and hot—and heating must be available at appropriate times and in reasonable amounts. A broken furnace during a cold snap, for example, is considered a major habitability issue.   

4. Prevent and Exterminate Rodent and Insect Infestations

Landlords are expected to take reasonable steps to prevent rodent and vermin infestations. Additionally, they must exterminate all infestations as soon as they occur.

5. Reasonably Prevent Intrusions

Tenants have the right to a home that is safe from intrusions and criminal activity. Generally, landlords simply have to take common sense safety measures, such as maintaining door locks and keeping outdoor areas well-lit. Additional safety needs, such as home protection cameras or alarms, are optional and typically are the responsibility of the tenant.

6. Protect Residents from Environmental Hazards

Residents should be protected from hazards like deteriorating lead paint and asbestos. Mold is a significant issue in Florida, which means that landlords must protect against this hazard with sufficient ventilation. 

As a landlord, you want to do what is right for your tenants while protecting yourself from legal liability and disputes. That’s why you need Atlas Law—we advocate for our landlord clients and help them meet local and state standards. Contact us at 813-241-8269 to get started.

Understanding the Protected Classes Under the Fair Housing Act

Landlords are subject to a wide range of regulations and laws, including federal, state, and local. The Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) is a federal law that strives to eliminate discrimination against tenants.

An Overview of the Fair Housing Act

Prior to the Fair Housing Act, discrimination was perceived as a rampant problem for those renting or purchasing a home. The goal of the Fair Housing Act is to prevent landlords from discriminating against current, future, or prospective tenants because of specific protected characteristics or attributes.

Protected Classes

Currently, the Fair Housing Act protects against discrimination based on seven different categories:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Color
  • Sex
  • National origin
  • Disability
  • Familial status (refers to having a child, being pregnant, or being in the process of adopting a child)

The FHA forbids discrimination against tenants based on characteristics included in the list above. This does not mean that a tenant cannot be turned away for other reasons. For example, a landlord cannot refuse to rent to a disabled individual who has an emotional support animal that exceeds the weight or breed restriction for the community. However, a housing provider can refuse to rent to a disabled person with an emotional support animal if the person does not have a steady source of income or has a criminal background that is unacceptable (please be sure your criminal background check policy is not in violation of the FHA before denying due to a criminal background).

Preventing Legal Issues

The key to avoiding lawsuits based on FHA discrimination is having a clear screening and tenant selection process. Having a documented screening process that you follow for every single tenant and every single vacancy can be strong evidence against claims of discrimination. You should be very careful about what you say in housing ads, as well as what you say to prospective tenants on the phone or in person. Anything that implies discrimination—even if it’s an unintentional implication—could put you at risk. Working with an attorney with experience in landlord/tenant issues is one way to ensure that your rental language and advertising is in compliance.

Avoid Overcompensating for the FHA

The consequences of an FHA violation can be substantial for a landlord, so it should come as no surprise that many overcompensate while trying to avoid discrimination claims. Consider, again, the example above. A landlord might choose to rent to a disabled person with a dog that exceeds the weight or breed restrictions even though that individual has an unacceptable credit rating or a criminal background. This, too, could result in a violation of the FHA. Courts have held that landlords are discriminating against other prospective tenants by favoring the tenant in question and ignoring information that would otherwise disqualify the tenant from renting.  This is why a uniform tenant screening process is so important.  

Prevention is the best way to avoid issues with tenants or prospective tenants. The team at Atlas Law has extensive experience litigating difficult Fair Housing Act cases throughout the state of Florida—call 813-241-8269 to discuss your legal needs.

Types of Damages That Could Be Awarded in a Tenant’s Rights Case

As a landlord and property owner, you have a legal responsibility to ensure that the property allows your tenants to benefit from certain rights. In Florida, these rights include the right to fair housing, the right to habitable housing, and the right to privacy, among others. A failure to comply with appropriate housing regulation may lead to a landlord-tenant dispute and even warrant a lawsuit against the landlord. 

If the tenant has a valid basis for such a lawsuit and his case prevails in court, the landlord may be ordered by the judge to pay damages, or monetary compensation, to the tenant. In this article, we will provide a brief overview of the kinds of damages a tenant may obtain in a tenant’s rights case.

Damages for Wrongfully Withholding Security Deposit

According to Florida landlord-tenant law, a landlord may retain security deposit either in part or in full only under very specific circumstances. For example, a landlord may use the deposit to cover unpaid rent. The deposit can also be withheld for damage to the property that is in excess of ordinary wear and tear. 

However, if a landlord withholds the deposit using damage to the property as a mere pretext, a tenant may choose to pursue a lawsuit. If the court decides that withholding security deposit was unreasonable, the tenant may be awarded the following kind of damages:

  • Security deposit with interest: The judge may order the landlord to return the security deposit to the tenant in part or in full along with corresponding interest
  • Triple damages: In certain cases, the judge may find that the landlord’s action was completely unwarranted and unreasonable and order the tenant to pay the tenant three times the value of security deposit as compensation
  • Attorneys’ Fees:  If the tenant hired an attorney and prevails on his/her claim for the security deposit, the judge may declare that the tenant is the “prevailing party.”  The prevailing party would be entitled to his/her attorneys’ fees and costs associated with the lawsuit. Additionally, if the attorney takes the matter on a contingency fee basis, the judge could award a contingency fee multiplier, which multiplies the attorneys’ fees by 1.5 to 3 times the actual amount of the attorneys’ fees incurred.  

Damages in Habitability Violation Cases

As we explained in our previous blog, a landlord is legally obliged to provide tenants with housing that conforms to certain living standards. This obligation is commonly known as the warranty of habitability. A failure to ensure habitability may lead to a lawsuit. If the tenant prevails in such a lawsuit, he or she may be awarded the following kinds of damages:

  • Return of rent paid
  • Attorney fees
  • Emotional distress damages (if the tenant successfully proves that the landlord’s negligence in providing habitability caused him or her emotional distress)
  • Tort damages (if the tenant proves that the landlord’s negligence was a cause of the tenant’s injury, the tenant may file a personal injury claim and recover financial compensation for his or her injuries and related expenses)

Atlas Law – A Landlord’s Advocate

Being targeted with a lawsuit coming from a disgruntled tenant can be stressful for the landlord. However, in some instances, claims put forward by a tenant may be unfair and unwarranted. As a landlord, you need trusted legal assistance to protect your rights and interests. Atlas Law specializes in landlord-tenant cases and offers comprehensive legal assistance for a landlord. Please contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys and obtain the help you need and deserve.

Providing a Livable Space: 10 Ways a Landlord Must Ensure Habitability

There is no doubt that managing a portfolio of rental properties can be a challenge even for the most conscientious landlord. The issues that need to be taken care of on a regular basis are numerous. Solving each and every one of them effectively and in a timely manner requires good planning, strategic thinking, and excellent management skills. However, no matter how many issues you need to handle as a landlord, property maintenance should always be at the top of your priority list. 

The consequences of leaving a leaking roof, faulty heating, or plumbing issues can ruin your reputation as a landlord. If you fail to resolve these problems promptly and effectively, your tenant may decide to take legal action against you for breaching the warranty of habitability. In Florida, the warranty of habitability is a common name for a set of housing statutes that protect the right of a tenant to a decent standard of living. In this article, you’ll learn what habitability means and what landlords are legally required to do to ensure habitable conditions of the property they are renting.

What Is Habitability?

Habitability is a broad legal concept. In general terms, it can be defined as the conformity of rental property with the basic living and safety standards. The warranty of habitability is an implied requirement which means that it doesn’t have to be stated explicitly in the rental or lease agreement. Additionally, a contract clause attempting to waive the warranty of habitability would be deemed against public policy and such unenforceable in most states.

While Florida Statutes do not contain the phrase “warranty of habitability,” the obligation of a landlord to ensure an appropriate standard of living is clearly defined in Section 83.51 of the Florida Statutes. According to s. 83.51, the landlord must comply with “. . . the requirements of applicable building, housing, and health codes.” Additionally, the landlord must ensure that the structural components of a rental property such as roofs, windows, doors, floors, steps, porches, etc. are in good repair and that the plumbing is in “reasonable working condition.”

Ways to Ensure Habitability

In practical terms, the above-mentioned requirements mean that a landlord should comply with the warranty of habitability in the following ways:

  1. Ensuring that the roof doesn’t leak.
  2. Providing windows and doors that are weather-tight and water-tight, and maintaining them in such condition.
  3. Maintaining the stairs in the safe-to-use condition.
  4. Ensuring that the house is reasonably rodent-proof.
  5. Ensuring hot water connection to the kitchen and the bathroom.
  6. Providing a flush toilet and maintaining it in good working condition.
  7. Providing a sufficient number of working electric outlets.
  8. Maintaining the electrical systems in working and safe condition.
  9. Taking appropriate care to ensure pest and rodent control and eliminating rats, mice, roaches, wood-destroying pests such as ants and termites, and bedbugs.
  10. Installing a working smoke detection device.

Facing a Lawsuit? Atlas Law Can Help

At times, even the most conscientious landlords face lawsuits from their disgruntled tenants. In some cases, such lawsuits are frivolous and unsubstantiated. As a landlord, you have every right to protect your reputation and interests by choosing a skillful lawyer to represent and protect you in a court of law. If you’re facing any legal issues coming from a dissatisfied tenant, do not hesitate to contact us. Our attorneys at Atlas Law will gladly review the issue you’re facing and advise with regards to the most advantageous solution available in your case. Please contact us to schedule a free consultation with a member of our legal team.

Abandonment Explained

Unreturned phone calls, text messages without answers and, often, at least a month’s worth of unpaid rent. These are usually the tell-tale signs that your tenant has abandoned their rented property. It can be stressful and frustrating when a tenant disappears without notice before the tenancy has ended. Such a situation can also deal a blow to your finances – whether or not the tenant was behind with their payments. Under such circumstances, you may feel pressured to start looking for a new tenant right away.

When a tenant disappears for a prolonged period of time without informing their landlord, it may constitute a breach of the lease agreement and count as abandonment. However, before a landlord can change the locks and embark on a search for a new tenant, they need to find out whether the previous tenant has truly abandoned the property. Read on to learn what constitutes tenant abandonment in Florida and what your obligations as a landlord are if you’re ever faced with this issue.

What Constitutes Abandonment?

According to Florida law, a landlord can assume that a tenant has abandoned the property if:

  • the tenant has been absent for longer than half the time of periodic rental payment
  • the rent is not current (or, in other words, the rent is due)
  • the tenant has not notified the landlord about their prolonged absence

It should be noted that this criteria is established pursuant to Chapter 83 of the Florida Statutes, so if you are a landlord renting a lot to a tenant in a manufactured home community, this abandonment provision would not apply to you.   

Landlord’s Obligation in Case of Abandonment

Provided that the conditions mentioned above are met, a landlord can then take actions to minimize financial losses by re-renting the property. A landlord may enter the abandoned property to perform any necessary improvements and repairs. The landlord may also change the locks and collect the old tenant’s belongings. 

Importantly, however, according to Florida law, a landlord may not simply dispose of the old tenant’s property without first attempting to reach the tenant. The landlord would have to provide the tenant with written notice and an opportunity to recover the abandoned property. A tenant has 10-15 days to retrieve property, depending on how the notice is delivered to the tenant. After that period, the landlord may dispose of, retain, or resell the property.

If the value of the property left behind by the former tenant is worth at least $500.00, a special procedure must be followed. Specifically, the property must be sold at public sale by competitive bidding. The sale must be advertised in a newspaper of general circulation for at least two weeks and take place at least 10 days after the initial publication. 

Importantly, the landlord cannot retain the full amount of proceeds from such sale. Rather, after deducting any costs related to the storage, advertisement, sale, etc., the remaining proceeds must be returned to the former tenant. If attempts to contact the tenant prove to be unfruitful, the proceeds must go to the clerk of court in the county where the property was abandoned.

As shown above, dealing with an issue related to a troublesome tenant can be more complicated than it initially seems. In order to avoid any legal liability, a landlord is usually required to follow statutory procedures. That is why before taking any action regarding a tenant, it is better to first consult an experienced attorney. If you have any questions with regard to a matter related to your tenant, please contact Atlas Law – a landlord’s advocate.

Landlord/Tenant Law 101: The Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment

As a landlord, your are entitled to visiting your property – after all, you are the owner. But, on the other hand, are you truly allowed to step onto your rented property whenever you want regardless of whether or not the tenant is home?

Not respecting a tenant’s boundaries is a serious violation of an important Florida housing principle. This principle is called the Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment. Read on to learn what this covenant exactly stipulates, how it protects a tenant’s rights, and what a tenant can do if they feel those rights are being violated.

What is the Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment?

The Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment is a duty that Florida law imposes on landlords whether or not it is explicitly stated in the residential lease or contract. This covenant gives a tenant the right to enjoy his or her rented property without substantial interference from the landlord and without infringing on his or her privacy. Additionally, if a landlord wants to visit his or her property, he or she must give the tenant reasonable notice at least 12 hours in advance. Moreover, the tenant must give consent to the visit. However, a landlord is generally entitled to visiting the property in the following circumstances:

  • if the tenant unreasonably withholds the consent
  • in case of emergency
  • if the tenant is absent from the property for a period of time that is equal to one-half of the rental payment term

Violations of Quiet Enjoyment

The following list contains the most common examples of violations of the Covenant; while it is by no means complete, it may give you a good idea of what a violation of Quiet Enjoyment looks like:

  • Visiting too frequently
  • Entering the property without permission or notice
  • Refusing to give a tenant access to common areas or spaces on the residential premises
  • Preventing a tenant from having guests under reasonable circumstances

What You Can Do?

If you are dealing with situations that may constitute a violation of the Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment, it is usually best to contact a qualified lawyer to ask for advice on what the best way to proceed would be given the circumstances. Our attorneys at Atlas Law can provide you with some basic guidelines during a free phone consultation. We will also advise whether legal action against your tenant may be warranted and be happy to represent your interests in a dispute that may ensue.

3 Examples of Housing Discrimination

Equal access to housing is a civil right protected by law on both state and federal levels. The Fair Housing Act, which was originally adopted in 1968, prohibits discrimination in house sales, rentals, and financing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Similar protections are also enshrined in Florida Statutes, which broaden the scope of persons protected from discrimination by prohibiting unfair treatment based on disability and familial status, among other things. Those who experience discrimination and unfair treatment with regard to housing may be entitled to file a civil lawsuit and claim financial compensation against the perpetrators.  In addition to a civil lawsuit, HUD can bring administrative action against a housing provider that violates the Fair Housing Act, which could result in financial and other penalties.

As a landlord, you need to be aware of recognized forms of discrimination. A lawsuit can destroy your reputation. In this article, we will explore a few of less notorious examples of discrimination you need to be wary of when leasing a new house or apartment.

1. Pet Restriction and Disabled Persons

Generally speaking, landlords are entitled to create rules with regards to the use of the property they put up for rent. As a result, your lease agreement may contain some legally enforceable restrictions that renters will have to adhere to when living in the property. Some provisions may prohibit all pets or restrict certain breeds or types of animals.

Nevertheless, if a renter is legally disabled and has a service animal, it may be considered discrimination based on disability if you tell someone they won’t be able to live there because the apartment or house doesn’t allow pets. This may be an instance of discrimination regardless of the kind of service animal and whether they need it for a physical or mental disability. However, the circumstances of each case may vary, so it is always best to consult an attorney experienced in Fair Housing Act cases before taking any action.

2. Construction Modifications and Disabled Persons

Similar to pet restrictions, the lease agreement may also prohibit the introduction of certain modifications to the physical design of the property. Such prohibitions may also be imposed by a condominium or homeowners association. However, what happens if someone becomes disabled due to a sudden medical condition and now the tenant requires certain home modifications? If you prohibit tenants from making such changes in the design of the property in order to accommodate the disability, it may be seen as discrimination. To take the best course of action available, it is advisable to consult a lawyer beforehand.

3. Discrimination Based on Family Status

Florida Statutes also prohibit discrimination based on family status. In practical terms, this means that property owners cannot refuse to offer housing to families with children or make arbitrary rules with regards to that (such as “families with children are only allowed on the first floor”). Another notorious example of discrimination may be charging an additional rental fee based on the number of family members residing on the property.

Experienced Housing Discrimination in Florida? Contact Atlas Law

Housing discrimination may take many forms. At times, you may be unsure if a policy, rule or regulation may be construed as discrimination. If you need legal advice and representation in relation to any legal issue related to Florida housing law, do not hesitate to contact our experienced attorneys at Atlas Law. Call us at 813.241.8269 to receive a free consultation regarding your case.

Understanding the Appeals Process in an Eviction Case

Facing an eviction order can be scary – especially if you feel that the decision the court has made is unfair and unjustified. Thankfully, Florida state law provides a way for you to fight the unjustified denial of an eviction by appealing the judgment in your eviction case. In this article, we will briefly walk you through the appeals process in Florida.

It is important to note that you can only file for an appeal after the final judgment was made in the eviction case. If you don’t agree with the judge’s decision in your case and you think that procedural errors have been committed in the first trial, you may have a good reason to file an appeal.

A landlord has 30 days from the date the eviction order was given to file an appeal by presenting the court with the required documents. The steps you must take in order for the appeals to be properly filed and recognized by the court include:

  • Notice of Appeal – The appellant must first file the notice of appeal with the appropriate appeals court (typically the court in which the final judgment was rendered). In addition, a filing fee of up to $300 must be paid.
  • Preparation of the Record – While the record is prepared by the clerk of the court, the appellant must ensure that the record contains all the records and documents they deem necessary to be included. The appellant will usually have 10 days to communicate their instructions to the clerk of the court.  This usually includes the additional of any trial transcripts, affidavits, or depositions that were taken as part of the original proceeding.
  • Docketing Statements and/or Disclosures – These include important information about the appeal such as the details of the initial judgment, parties involved, and attorneys who represent them.
  • Appellate Briefs – In appellate briefs, the parties present their arguments. Briefs are extremely important since the appellate court’s judgment will be based primarily on the information presented in the briefs. Unlike the original action, there is no trial.  No additional or new evidence is heard by the appellate court, as the purpose of the appeal is to argue that there was a procedural problem that occurred during the original eviction proceeding. The appealing party is responsible for presenting the initial brief. Once the initial brief is filed by the appealing party, the respondent will file the answer brief whose purpose is to defend the decision that was taken at the initial hearing. The appellant will have the chance to counter these arguments in the reply brief.

Appellate Proceedings

Once all the formal requirements pertaining to filing an appeal have been met, appellate proceedings may be initiated. Importantly, during an appeal, the appellate court will not consider new evidence or re-try the case. Rather, the purpose of the appeal is to find out if legal or procedural mistakes were committed at the initial hearing.

Some appeals may involve the oral argument in which parties appear before the court to present their position orally. The judges often takes advantage of this to ask additional questions to both the appellant and the respondent. The appellate court’s decision isn’t announced during the oral argument. Rather, the decision is issued in the written form after oral argument has been heard.  It is not uncommon for an appellate court to issue an opinion months after the oral argument occurs.

Landlords who lost their initial eviction hearing should be aware that filing an appeal on eviction judgment isn’t a DIY project. Moreover, it may be more cost effective to file a new eviction action instead of going through the appeals process.  Closely cooperating with an eviction lawyer with experience in real estate litigation will be crucial to the success of the appeal. Atlas Law attorneys have successfully represented the interests of landlords, including handling of appellate matters. If you are facing a court decision that you feel is unfair, please contact us immediately to take advantage of important protections our office can offer you.

4 Common Security Deposit Disputes

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.