Security Deposits are an agreed upon amount of money collected by the landlord to hold, for the tenant. It is the tenant's money, until it isn't.
The assumption should be made that tne landlord will return the security deposit to the tenant after they move out.
HOWEVER... the tenant needs to understand that "their" money can be used to cover expenses relating to any damage to the premises or negligence or other breach of lease/contract, an early termination, possible claims for late fees or other rent owed.
It's a protection for the landlord to have besides the actual lease, to ensure the tenant leaves the property in good, clean condition and without harm. And if that isn't the case, to claim the money needed to make those repairs. Florida Landlord Tenant Law is very specific, both landlords and tenants need to make sure to follow the rules.
There is no set requirement to stipulate "one month's security" and "last month's rent" as you find in other states. The landlord is free to ask for any amount they are comfortable with... and the tenant is free to try to negotiate these terms with a landlord, if the landlord is open to it. The norm in South Florida is for a tenant to move in with three month's rent up front... first month's rent, last month's rent and one month's security.
Also common is for the three month's rent up front at move in to be designated as first month's rent and two month's security. With two month's security deposit held by the landlord, tenant's are still responsible for paying their last month's rent. And no, they cannot ask that their security be applied to their last month's rent if it is already designated as security. By holding two month's security, Landlords have more money to cover potential damage or unpaid rent or late fees. Got new wood floors, or brand new carpet, a new AC system or the tenants have puppies? In many cases like those, landlords will need to hold more security to be able to cover the potential expense for expensive repairs/damage.
Florida is very strict about what money is designated for security deposits, or rents. It's VERY important to use correct language in a lease. And to abide by all laws regarding holding, and USING the deposit money. And tenants need to read through their lease and make sure to adhere to its provisions, or be prepared to lose some or all of their deposit if not. In addition to losing security, the landlord can also seek additional compensation from the tenant through the court system, and/or a collections agency.
The landlord has certain obligations to the tenant for any security deposits
given or advanced by tenants. There are three basic options available to the
landlord for holding security: separate non-interest bearing account in Florida bank, separate interest bearing account in Florida bank and share interest with tenant, or post a surety bond with Clerk of Court.
*you may also use the services of a property manager who would be equipped to hold and document all deposits, adhering to legal requirements.
VERY important, is making sure to document and advise the tenant HOW and WHERE [their] security is being held. Remember it is THEIR money. Unless and until it is not. In Florida, add to the lease the how and where. And if that changes, notify the tenant right away of the change, in writing. Visit Florida's statutes on security deposits surrounding this subject. Make sure to adhere to them!!
Landlords collect security to cover their expenses after the tenant moves out. This can include expenses to return the rental back to the original move-in condition, minus 'normal wear and tear' issues.
Did the tenant leave inches of dirt and dust because they never used a vacuum or mop? It's more common than you think! Can you claim a cleaning fee? Is there unpaid rent and late fees after move-out that you can take from their security? Did the tenant leave unwanted trash and debris which the landlord now needs to pay someone to dump for them? The most important thing to remember... Florida Landlord/Tenant law will always be first and foremost. Follow it. However... there's a lot of space within each line of the Florida Statutes. Lots of questions left unanswered. You can pour over case law... and try to predict how a potential judge would rule in court. OR... you can be proactive.
The BEST WAY for landlords to avoid pitfalls of huge expenses after tenant move-outs is go on offense. Click here for more information and tips on how to set terms and expectations up front, to help avoid future costly problems and disasters.
Florida landlord/tenant law is clear: tenants are expected to leave leave the property in undamaged, same condition in which it was received at move-in, minus ordinary wear and tear.
Tenants must leave the rental unit CLEAN! They cannot leave holes in walls from their flat screen TVs, or nail/screw holes from hanging artwork or photos. They cannot leave trash in the house, or personal belongings they no longer want. They cannot leave mattresses, clothes - nothing. All cabinets, drawers, closets should be empty. Why? The landlord has every right to claim the expense from the tenant's security for dumping, cleaning, repairing. That expense can be what it would cost to hire a professional, it can be an hourly rate of more than the tenant would ever think it would cost! Tenants should never leave a rental unit in any shape other than MOVE-IN READY for a next tenant... if they want their security deposit back in full.
This rental property was left FAR beyond "normal wear and tear".
Claims for dumping, repairs, cleaning are all justified with
repair estimates/invoices and photos.
Tenants are expected to return the property to the landlord in the same condition as received OR BETTER. Photos are the best, documentation also a great idea. Generally, rental properties are given over to tenants in clean condition with repairs made. Tenants normally have a week to 10 day period after moving in to report anything additional that is in need of repair. Beyond that, tenants assume responsibility for most of what happens in the property aside from any major electrical or appliance repairs needed.
At the end of any tenancy, it's important for both the Landlord and Tenant to review their lease and all terms, along with any applicable move-in checklists, lists of inventory. Landlords should review all receipts for repairs and replacements made during the tenancy.
Move-out inspections are not a requirement, but if tenants are concerned, it's suggested that they request an informal meeting with the landlord before the move-out inspection. This way the landlord can walk through with the tenant and give guidance on expectations. Landlords would then note any damage or questionable wear and tear, and give tenants concrete advice on what they will be looking for when reviewing the security deposit return.
Landlords should remember that the security deposit belongs TO THE TENANT and they are obligated to return any portion of the money not owed to them. If it was held in an interest bearing account, Landlords are required by law to share the interest amount made with the tenant (see above calculation). Claims on security can only be for damage over "normal wear and tear" and possibly delinquent rental or late fee balances depending on the lease.
Landlords will need to return the full amount of security within 15 days if the property was left in acceptable condition and no additional monies are owed, no claims on security to be deducted. However, Landlords do have 30 days to send tenants notification of any claims on security. They will use this time to get estimates for repairs, or potential legal advice if needed.
Tenants must give Landlords a forwarding address at move-out, or the Landlord will be forced to mail all security correspondence to the property address which could delay timing needed for the tenant to dispute any claims.
Landlords should be diligent in acquiring estimates for work needed to repair any damage, replace any keys or clickers etc... as it is important to have solid documentation. MOST IMPORTANT is for both parties to have their own set of photos so that any disputes can be settled by reviewing the photos.
Tenants have the right to dispute any claim on security deposit in part or in full, but have to do so within 15 days of receipt of the Notice. From there, if tenant doesn't dispute within 15 days, the Landlord has the right to impose the claim.
If the tenant disputes part or all of the Notice to Impose Claim on Security, both parties must come to an agreement - photos and written estimates for repairs are most important at this point. As well, tenants should read their lease carefully: often late fees or early terminations become additional rent or defaults and could technically not need to be defined as a claim on security at all.
Taking security deposit dispute matters to court can be costly. BUT it IS possible for the LANDLORD to recoup all money owed by the tenant. The losing party will most likely end up paying for court costs plus the other party's attorney's fees (most leases have this provision built in).
**AND EVEN IF THE LANDLORD DOES NOT EXERCISE THE RIGHT OF CLAIM ON SECURITY WITHIN THE 30 DAY PERIOD... THEY CAN STILL SUE THE TENANT IN COURT AT A LATER DATE. BOTTOM LINE... TENANTS ARE EXPECTED TO KEEP THE PROPERTY IN GOOD, CLEAN CONDITION AND RETURN IT AND ALL KEYS AND PERSONAL PROPERTY OF THE OWNER, WITHOUT INCIDENT.
LESSON? DOCUMENT AND TAKE PHOTOS OF THE PROPERTY AT MOVE-IN. Make sure you read your lease and UNDERSTAND ALL EXPECTATIONS!!!
Tenants should make sure they return ALL keys/remotes quickly and make sure the property is clean, all personal items/furniture/garbage is completely gone and the property is in a condition for new tenants to move in right away.
Bookmark this site and come back often... we add more content and information daily.
Check out the News page for our favorite relevant news articles of the week!