Security Deposits – Landlord Tenant Lawyers

Security Deposits Under Florida’s Landlord Tenant Law

Chapter 83 of the Florida Statutes governing commercial and residential tenancies defines “deposit money” as any money held by the Landlord on behalf of the tenant, including damage deposits, security deposits, advance rent deposits, pet deposits, or any contractually agreed to deposits between Landlord and Tenant.

Under the same statute “security deposits” is defined as any moneys held by the landlord as security for the performance of the rental agreement, including damages to landlord caused by tenant’s breach of the lease prior to its expiration.

Florida landlords are required to follow a set of well-defined steps when handling a tenant’s security deposit. These requirements apply to residential tenancies. With respect to commercial tenancies, Florida’s Landlord Tenant Act does not provide a set of defined procedures or rules. This article’s reference to a security deposit will deal with law regarding security deposits in the residential context.

Among other things, the landlord is required to hold such money in (1) a separate non-interest bearing account in a Florida Banking institution for the benefit of the tenant(s); (2) the landlord is forbidden from commingling such funds with any other funds that belong to the landlord; (3) the landlord is prohibited from pledging or hypothecating such funds until such monies are actually due to the landlord.

Landlords also have the option of holding the total amount of such money in a separate interest-bearing account in a Florida banking institution for the benefit of the tenant(s), and if held in such an account, the tenant shall receive and collect interest in an amount of at least 75% o the annualized average interest rate payable on such account or interest at the rate of 5% per year, simple interest, whichever the landlord elects. Again, the landlord may not hypothecate, pledge, or make use of such money in any other way until such money is actually due to the landlord.

The third option is to post a surety bond, executed by the landlord as principal and a surety company authorized to do business in Florida, with the clerk of court in the county where the dwelling unit is located in the total amount of the security deposit and advance rent the landlord holds on behalf of the tenant or $50,000, whichever is less.

Landlords Security Deposit Requirements for Residential Tenancies

The landlord must provide written notice to the tenant, in the lease agreement or within 30 days after receipt of deposit money, disclosing the receipt of the security deposit. After providing such a disclosure, if the landlord changes the manner or location in which the deposit moneys are being held, the landlord must notify the tenant within 30 days after the change. The tenant may not use the landlords failure to comply with this requirement as a defense to the payment of rent. This notice requirement must be given in person or by mail to the tenant, state the name and address of the institution where the deposit money is being held; state whether the tenant is entitled to interest on the deposit and must contain the following disclosure:

YOUR LEASE REQUIRES PAYMENT OF CERTAIN DEPOSITS. THE LANDLORD MAY TRANSFER ADVANCE RENTS TO THE LANDLORD’S ACCOUNT AS THEY ARE DUE AND WITHOUT NOTICE. WHEN YOU MOVE OUT, YOU MUST GIVE THE LANDLORD YOUR NEW ADDRESS SO THAT THE LANDLORD CAN SEND YOU NOTICES REGARDING YOUR DEPOSIT. THE LANDLORD MUST MAIL YOU NOTICE, WITHIN 30 DAYS AFTER YOU MOVE OUT, OF THE LANDLORD’S INTENT TO IMPOSE A CLAIM AGAINST THE DEPOSIT. IF YOU DO NOT REPLY TO THE LANDLORD STATING YOUR OBJECTION TO THE CLAIM WITHIN 15 DAYS AFTER RECEIPT OF THE LANDLORD’S NOTICE, THE LANDLORD WILL COLLECT THE CLAIM AND MUST MAIL YOU THE REMAINING DEPOSIT, IF ANY.

IF THE LANDLORD FAILS TO TIMELY MAIL YOU NOTICE, THE LANDLORD MUST RETURN THE DEPOSIT BUT MAY LATER FILE A LAWSUIT AGAINST YOU FOR DAMAGES. IF YOU FAIL TO TIMELY OBJECT TO A CLAIM, THE LANDLORD MAY COLLECT FROM THE DEPOSIT, BUT YOU MAY LATER FILE A LAWSUIT CLAIMING A REFUND.

YOU SHOULD ATTEMPT TO INFORMALLY RESOLVE ANY DISPUTE BEFORE FILING A LAWSUIT. GENERALLY, THE PARTY IN WHOSE FAVOR A JUDGMENT IS RENDERED WILL BE AWARDED COSTS AND ATTORNEY FEES PAYABLE BY THE LOSING PARTY.

THIS DISCLOSURE IS BASIC. PLEASE REFER TO PART II OF CHAPTER 83, FLORIDA STATUTES, TO DETERMINE YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS.

The landlord will have 15 days to return the security deposit if the landlord does not intent to make a claim on it. If the landlord does intend to make such a claim, the landlord will have 30 days from the date the tenant vacates to make a claim. The notice of landlord’s intent to make a claim on the deposit must be sent certified mail to the tenant’s last known mailing address, unless the lease specifies otherwise. The Notice of Intent to make a claim on the deposit should contain language along the following lines:

This is a notice of my intention to impose a claim for damages in the amount of   upon your security deposit, due to  . 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)  .

The tenant then has 15 days to object to the landlords Notice of Intention to impose a claim on the deposit. The tenant’s failure to object to the landlords claim upon the security deposit does not waive the tenants right to bring a suit against the landlord for damages. The prevailing party in a suit over the security deposit is entitled to receive its court costs together with a reasonable fee for his or her attorney.

For purposes of a renewal of the lease agreement, the security deposit shall carry forward and be considered a new security deposit.

If the tenant vacates or abandons the premises prior to the expiration of the lease term, as stated in a written lease, or any tenant who vacates prior to the expiration of a term arising out of a periodic tenancy, must give 7 days written notice by certified mail or personal delivery to the landlord, and such notice must include the address where the tenant may be reached. The tenants failure to give such a notice, relieves the landlord of the notice requirement for making a claim on the deposit, but does not waive any right the tenant may have to the security deposit or a part thereof.

Commercial or Residential Landlords and tenants with questions regarding their security deposits would be well-advised to consult with an attorney. Call today and speak with an attorney at Edelboim Lieberman Revah Oshinsky.