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Landlord's Ability to Keep All or Partial Amount of Security Deposit

Am I allowed to keep my tenant’s security deposit?

As a Landlord, if you plan to retain a portion or all of your tenant’s security deposit, there are certain steps that Florida Statute §83.49 requires you to follow before keeping the security deposit. If you fail to follow these steps, you may be required to return the security deposit back to the Tenant, regardless if there was damage caused to the property or not. Also, if your tenant hired an attorney to recover the security deposit, you may also be exposed to paying their legal fees. It is because of that exposure that it is likely a good idea to speak to an attorney before you impose a claim on your tenant’s security deposit.

What steps must I take to keep the security deposit?

Once the Tenant vacates the property, you must return the security deposit, along with any interest earned, to the Tenant within 15 days if you do not intend to keep any portion of the security deposit. However, if you intend to retain all or a portion of the security deposit, you must notify the Tenant of your intent to make a claim on the security deposit within 30 days from when the Tenant moves out of the property. Typically, a claim on the security deposit is payment for damages to the property. Upon receiving your notice, the Tenant has 15 days to object to your claim on the security deposit.

After being properly notified, if the Tenant does not object, you have the right to claim the security deposit. After the claim is made, if any amount of your security deposit remains, you will then mail the remaining amount to the Tenant. Even if the Tenant does not object, you may still be able to file a lawsuit against the Tenant for any additional damages not covered by the security deposit.

Once the Tenant vacates the property, any notice of intent to impose a claim must be sent to the Tenant’s last known address within the statutory period. As a Landlord, you are under no obligation to go above and beyond to obtain the Tenant’s current address if they did not provide one upon vacating.  Although the law does not impose an obligation to go above and beyond to obtain your Tenant’s new address, case law does suggest that if you can reasonably ascertain your Tenant’s current address, it is wise to send a copy to that address, as well. 

What if I forget to notify the Tenant about my intent to keep the security deposit?

If you fail to properly notify the Tenant, you lose the right to make a claim against the security deposit. If you keep the security deposit without properly notifying the Tenant, you must return the security deposit to the Tenant. However, you still have the option of filing a lawsuit against the Tenant for damages to the property after returning the security deposit to the Tenant.

What if the Tenant objects to my claim on the security deposit?

Filing a lawsuit on the security deposit against the Tenant does not guarantee that you have a valid claim. It is imperative that you review the lease agreement to determine if you have a right to the security deposit. Typically, the security deposit can only be kept if there is damage to the property in excess of “normal wear and tear.” Unless the lease states otherwise, the Tenant owes you the obligation to return the property in the same condition as before, excluding normal wear and tear.

Questions? Call Today!

Under Florida Law, you have rights and obligations as a Landlord. If you have questions about your rights and obligations, you should seek help from an attorney today. The Law Office of Fausto A. Rosales, P.A. is happy and eager to walk you through each step of the process. Call today for a free consultation.

 

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