Security Deposits and Residential Leases

In the case of most leases, the landlord typically requires that a tenant pay a security deposit. I receive questions all the time as to how the security deposit must be treated. The first thing is that the landlord must preserve the deposit during the tenancy. In addition, the landlord must return the full amount of the deposit within 15 days after the tenant leaves the dwelling or they must give written notice of why some or all of the deposit will not be returned to the tenant within 30 days after the tenant leaves the dwelling (actually moves out). The tenant then has the right to object in writing within 15 days of receipt of the notice. Under some circumstances, the tenant may receive the security deposit plus interest, but it depends on how the lease is structured. Before moving out, the tenant must provide the landlord with an address for receipt of the security deposit, or else the tenant may lose the right to object if the landlord looks to claim the security deposit money.

The Florida Statutes gives a format for a landlord to use when sending the letter that informs the tenant of their intent to deduct money from the security deposit. In many situations, it is ok for deductions of items such as cleaning of the property, or repairs to be made, but it is important not to try to stretch the deductions. As with any landlord-tenant dispute, it must always be considered that there is a chance that the winning party will be able to collect their attorney fees from the losing party, and it if is determined that a landlord deducted even just a little to much, they would be considered the losing party and be required to pay the tenant’s legal fees.

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