What to Do if the Florida Landlord is Refusing to Return a Tenant’s Security Deposit?
When signing a lease to an apartment or house in Florida, the landlord will request a security deposit on top of the rental payment. But what if he or she is refusing to return a tenant’s security deposit after the tenant moves out?
What is a Security Deposit in Florida?
A security deposit is a sum of money provided by a tenant – typically, it amounts to one or two times the rent – for the period they occupy a rental property or space.
After the rental period is over, the landlord is required to return the security deposit. The deposit can be withheld by the landlord only to pay for actual damages, material or financial, caused by the tenant. It is a standard practice in Florida for landlords to deduct amounts from the security deposit to clean or repair the rental property.
However, that does not necessarily mean that a landlord is free to deduct any amounts from the security deposit for any or no reason at all. Speak with a West Palm Beach Landlord-Tenant Litigation attorney if your landlord is refusing to return the security deposit or is trying to deduct any amounts from it under the pretense of “fixing the damages.”
When Does a Florida Landlord Have to Return the Security Deposit?
In Florida, landlords are required to return a tenant’s security deposit only after the tenant moves out of the rental property. To be more precise, the landlord has 15 days to return the tenant’s security deposit if there are no claims against the deposit (in other words, the landlord does not intend to deduct any funds to fix the damages).
If your Florida landlord intends to make a claim, he or she has 30 days to notify the tenant of the claim.
What Happens to the Security Deposit if a Tenant Moves Out Before the End of a Written Lease?
Contrary to popular belief, you may still get your security deposit back even if you moved out of a rental property before the end of a written lease.
However, if this happens, a tenant must notify the landlord in writing at least seven days before moving out. The tenant may personally deliver the notice, which must include an address where he or she may be reached, or send it by certified mail.
Failure to give the notice before moving out means that the landlord is no longer required to notify the tenant of any claims against the security deposit. However, the tenant still has the right to sue the landlord for a refund of the security deposit.
Note: The tenant might be liable for an “early lease termination” fee. In some cases, that fee might exceed the amount of the security deposit. In that case, suing the landlord may not be the best option.
How Can a Landlord-Tenant Dispute Over the Security Deposit Be Resolved?
If you intend to dispute the landlord’s claim against the security deposit or the landlord is refusing to return the security deposit after not giving any notice of a claim within 30 days, you may want to try to resolve the landlord-tenant dispute informally and out of court.
If the dispute cannot be resolved informally, you need a West Palm Beach Landlord-Tenant Litigation attorney to file a lawsuit. If the amount of the security deposit is $5,000 or less, the tenant must file a lawsuit in Small Claims Court.
Find out about other landlord-tenant lawsuit requirements during a phone consultation with our West Palm Beach landlord-tenant litigation lawyers at Pike & Lustig, LLP. Call at 561-291-8298.