Florida Renters’ Security Deposits: Protecting Your Rights as a Landlord or Tenant

May 12, 2015

Whether you are a landlord or a tenant, you know that the security deposit is an important part in the establishment of a landlord-tenant relationship. Both parties should review and be familiar with Florida Statute 83.49, as that is the statute governing deposits.  It is very important to note that everything must be done in writing.  Below are some other important steps that both parties need to take in protecting their respective rights with regard to the security deposit.

Firstly, if a security deposit is paid, the exact amount should be stated in the lease.  Once the security deposit is delivered to the landlord, the landlord must either place it in a separate account so that it is not commingled with the landlord’s other funds and transactions, or post a surety bond.  Within 30 calendar days of receipt of the deposit or upon moving the deposit, the landlord is to provide the tenant written notice of where the security deposit is being held.  If the landlord sells the rental property, or if there is a change in the rental agent, then the funds must be transferred to the new landlord or rental agent. An accurate accounting must be made, and the tenant must be notified of such change.

Following the receipt of the security deposit, the second important step comes when the tenant is getting ready to vacate the rental property.  Prior to moving in, the landlord and tenant should have conducted a walkthrough of the property and marked any existing damage.  Right before the vacancy, the landlord and tenant should do another walkthrough of the property and inspect it for damage.  Once done, each party should do a written walkthrough checklist of any assessed damage, compare it to the pre-move-in list, if applicable, sign it, and keep a copy of the walkthrough checklist for their records.  The tenant should also provide a forwarding address in writing for receipt of the security deposit or the claim on the security deposit.

Once the tenant vacates the property, the landlord can either return the deposit within 15 calendar days of vacancy, or make a claim on the security deposit within 30 calendar days of vacancy to the tenant’s last known mailing address.  The claim on the security deposit must be sent by certified mail and it must contain the following language:

“This is a notice of my intention to impose a claim for damages in the amount of $____ upon your security deposit, due to [e.g. statement of damages]. It is sent to you as required by s. 83.49(3), Florida Statutes. You are hereby notified that you must object in writing to this deduction from your security deposit within 15 days from the time you receive this notice or I will be authorized to deduct my claim from your security deposit. Your objection must be sent to [landlord’s address].”

It is also important for the landlord to keep all of the receipts or repair estimates.  Failure by the landlord to follow these steps may lead to a lawsuit being filed by the tenant.

Upon receipt of the claim on the security deposit, the tenant has 15 calendar days to dispute the claim in writing.  Failure of the tenant to timely dispute the claim on the security deposit will lead to the landlord being able to keep the security deposit for the claimed damages.

In the case of a dispute an attorney can represent your rights, as the matter has to be settled by a mediation, arbitration, or lawsuit.  It’s advisable to have an attorney review the lease to see if there is any change from the normal statutory procedures.  An attorney can also make a claim on the security deposit, or dispute the claim.