A security deposit is a part of virtually every lease agreement and one of the key requirements for the tenant if they want to rent a unit in your community. It serves as a measure of protection for the landlord’s property in case of unintentional damage on the part of the tenant and thus gives both parties some peace of mind. Florida’s landlord-tenant law precisely describes how security deposits must be handled, so in this post, we will explore what security deposits can and cannot be used for in Florida.
According to Florida landlord-tenant law, the money from security deposits cannot be freely used or invested. Rather, it must be stored in a bank account or posted as a surety bond. The information about the way the money is stored and other pertaining details must be disclosed to the tenant in writing within 30 days of receiving the deposit. While the landlord may place the money in either an interest or a non-interest bearing account, any interest must be paid back to the tenant either annually or at the end of the lease.
However, if a tenant wrongfully terminates the tenancy, no interest will be due.
Deduction to Cover Nonpayment of Rent
In Florida, a deduction from the security deposit can be made to cover the lost rent. As it is a tenant’s contractual obligation to pay a monthly rent, a failure to pay is considered a breach of lease. This is a sufficient reason to deduct a portion of the security deposit to recover the unpaid rent.
Deduction to Cover Damage to the Property
The security deposit may be kept in part or in full if the tenant caused material damage to the property. The damage, however, must not be due to normal wear and tear.
Deduction to Cover Cleaning Costs
Cleaning costs can only be deducted from the security deposit if the necessary cleaning is excessive and the condition the apartment has been left in is worse than can be reasonably attributed to normal wear and tear. The overwhelming majority of the time, cleaning costs cannot be deducted from the security deposit.
Deduction to Cover Unpaid Bills
If a tenant is required by the lease agreement to cover the cost of utilities, unpaid bills may justify the landlord keeping the security deposit in part or in full. You should be sure that your lease specifically requires the tenant to cover utility costs before making any such deduction.
Is Your Claim on Security Deposit Disputed?
If you are a landlord and feel that you have valid, legally justified reasons to keep the security deposit, you must inform your tenant about it in writing. If you do not have a claim for the security deposit and you are returning the deposit to the tenant, you have 15 days to do so, starting from the termination of the lease. If you are going to retain all or a portion of the security deposit, you have 30 days to inform your tenant that you wish to keep all or a portion of the deposit. The tenant has 15 days after receiving your security deposit retention letter to respond to your claim.
If the tenant objects your claim on the security deposit, it is usually best to contact a dedicated Florida eviction attorney to have the circumstances of your case closely reviewed and advised on the options available to you.
Attorney Brian Chase has extensive experience in dealing with landlord/tenant disputes and handles eviction and security deposit cases across all jurisdictions and counties in Florida. Typically, other lawyers in the area will know the laws in just your jurisdiction. We can handle cases no matter where you are in Florida. We offer flat fee evictions, weekly progress updates at no cost, and no coverage counsel. Contact Atlas Law to see why we are called the landlord’s advocate and how we’ll be able to help in your case.