The handling of security deposits in Florida is one of the most contentious issues in between landlords and tenants. It’s a topic we’ve discussed extensively recently to help clarify some key elements for Florida landlords.

It is reasonable for tenants to expect a timely return of their security deposit, but landlords also have a business to run and need to protect their assets, i.e., their rental properties. This is where security deposits come into play. Landlords are not allowed to charge for what is considered “normal wear and tear” on a property, but the definition of wear and tear is a highly debated topic in the real estate investment community.

What IS Considered Normal Wear and Tear

It’s important to understand that properties age and nothing remains new, clean, or perfect forever. Florida law accounts for this by ensuring that tenants are not held responsible for the normal aging of a property and its contents.

But, what exactly is considered “normal aging?” This includes any damage or deterioration that would be expected to happen over the course of time and not through any negligence or action by a tenant. That includes changes such as:

  • Carpet discoloration and flattening
  • Wall paint chipping or discoloring
  • Normal amounts of grease buildup on an oven
  • Moderate scratches on the floor
  • Minor dust or dirt on the property
  • Loose door and cabinet hinges
  • Moderate leaking from plumbing

This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but it should give you an idea of the types of things you can or can’t charge for. Nickel and diming a tenant may not be the best course of action, but you need to protect yourself from anything that extends beyond what most people would consider normal.

What ISN’T Considered Normal Wear and Tear

Now, there are many cases where damage goes far beyond any broad definition of normal wear and tear. Tenants need to be held financially responsible, and, in rare cases, criminally responsible.

Negligence is a key factor in determining whether damages are the tenant’s responsibility. Small bumps and bruises are expected during tenancy, but certain damages require repairs that can be charged against the security deposit. This includes:

  • Broken windows
  • Appliances damaged due to misuse
  • Discoloration of walls and carpets due to smoking in non-smoking properties
  • Large chips in wall paint or corners
  • Missing fixtures like ceiling fans or shower rods

Again, not an exhaustive list. It is important to note that any claims against a tenant’s security deposit in Florida must be itemized. This ensures that the tenant pays for actual repairs and not additional costs unrelated to the repairs.

Handle Security Deposits with Confidence

Handling security deposits appropriately is crucial to avoid costly legal disputes that put your Florida real estate investments at risk. No landlord wants to end up in court and potentially have to pay the tenant’s legal fees for attempting to deduct an excessive amount from a security deposit.

To confidently secure, handle, and deduct from a Florida tenant’s security deposit, it is best to seek legal consultation. Contact Atlas Law, your trusted landlord advocate in Florida, to ensure you are well-informed and compliant with the relevant security deposit regulations.