If your landlord is unlawfully withholding your security deposit, you should immediately contact a landlord tenant attorney, as your rights are time-sensitive.
Under Florida law, a landlord may not deduct the cost of repairs due to “normal wear and tear” from the security deposit.
Additionally, a landlord must follow certain procedures in handling a tenant’s security deposit. If a landlord wrongfully deducts or outright takes a tenant’s security deposit, the tenant may be entitled to a full return of the security deposit, treble damages, attorneys fees, and costs of bringing suit. Note that the landlord must strictly follow legal procedure in handling the deposit.
Florida Statute § 83.49 governs the use of security deposits.
Fla. Stat. § 83.49 states that whenever a tenant advances money as security pursuant to the tenancy, the landlord has one of the following mandatory options: (1) hold said monies in a separate non-interest bearing account in Florida banking institution for the account of the tenant. Note that the security deposit cannot be commingled with the landlord’s other funds; (b) hold the security deposit in a separate interest bearing account in a Florida banking institution for the account of the tenant, in which case all interest earned on such an account shall be turned over to the tenant; (c) post a surety bond in the circuit court in the county where the property is located. Here, the bond is conditioned on the landlord’s compliance with the lease and applicable Florida law.
Within 30 days of move-out, if the landlord intends to make a claim upon the security deposit the landlord must provide the tenant with written notice of intention to make a claim. If the landlord does not intend to impose a claim on the tenant’s security deposit, the landlord has 15 days, by law, to return the security deposit together with interest if so required. The written notice must be sent to the tenant via certified USPS mail.
The Landlord’s Notice of Intention to make a claim upon the deposit must be accompanied by an itemized list of deductions. As to each deduction, the landlord should be as specific as possible in identifying the repairs made or damage caused. A landlord may not deduct for repairs if such repairs were necessary prior to the tenancy, or inevitable due to normal wear and tear. Florida law states that the landlord’s failure to furnish written notice upon the tenant within the 30 day period forfeits the Landlord’s right to make a claim on the security deposit. This however, does not bar the landlord from filing a lawsuit to recover damages after the security deposit is returned. If either party files a lawsuit for the security deposit, the prevailing party is entitled to an award of attorneys fees and costs of bringing the action. Florida law gives special treatment to security deposit lawsuits, and the cause is advanced on the court’s calendar.
If your landlord took your security deposit, or if you are a landlord and are unsure as to whether any deductions from the security deposit were proper, speak to a landlord/tenant attorney at Evict FL today.