Security deposits are essential for landlords. They serve as a safety net, ensuring that your properties are protected in case a tenant vacates but leaves a mess, significant damage, or violates the terms of the lease.
You need to be able to cover the costly repairs or recover from damages caused by difficult tenants. We are delving into Florida’s security deposit laws to ensure that landlords are well-prepared for when they can rightfully keep a portion or all of a tenant’s security deposit.
What You Can Charge for a Security Deposit
In Florida, the law is quite landlord-friendly when it comes to setting the amount for a security deposit. Unlike some other states, Florida law does not place any limitations on the security deposit a landlord may charge tenants.
Generally, this deposit is not more than one or two months’ rent. While this offers flexibility, it’s important for landlords to remain competitive with similar properties and landlords when determining deposits to prevent potential tenants from going elsewhere.
Landlords can charge additional deposits for pets, with one notable exception: if the tenant has a genuine service animal then a pet deposit (or monthly pet fee) cannot be charged. The only exemption applies if you qualify for an exception from the Fair Housing Act.
Where Landlords Must Store the Security Deposit
Within 30 days of receiving the deposit, a landlord must decide where it will be held and inform the tenant. There are three options available:
- An interest-bearing bank account
- A non-interest-bearing bank account
- A security or surety bond
Importantly, the security deposit funds must not be commingled with any other personal or business funds. If interest is earned on the deposit during the tenancy, the landlord must pay out either 5% simple interest per year or 75% of the interest generated. This payment is made at the end of the tenancy and not before.
Timelines for Returning or Deducting from a Security Deposit
Landlords are also required to return the full or deducted security deposit in a timely manner. After the tenant vacates and the lease expires, landlords have 15 days to return the deposit.
If deductions are made, the landlord must provide written notice to the tenant within 30 days. This notice should explain the deductions and associated amounts for each.
If the tenant disagrees then they have the option to file a lawsuit. It’s important to note that if this lawsuit is unsuccessful, the tenant becomes responsible for covering the landlord’s legal expenses. Conversely, if the lawsuit succeeds, the landlord must pay the tenant’s legal fees.
Allowable Security Deposit Deductions
Florida law outlines specific situations in which landlords are permitted to deduct from a tenant’s security deposit. Deductions can be made for:
- Unpaid rent
- The cost of repairing damage that goes beyond normal wear and tear
- Fees that are explicitly outlined in the rental agreement (such as those for early termination or property misuse)
- The cost of any damages caused by breaches of the lease
It’s essential for landlords to keep detailed records and documentation to substantiate any deductions made.
Florida’s security deposit laws are crucial for landlords to protect their interests while staying in compliance with the law. If you need assistance crafting lease terms that pertain to security deposits or require legal support when defending deductions from a security deposit, don’t hesitate to contact Atlas Law for a Florida landlord’s advocate.