When and How Florida Landlords Can Withhold Security Deposits Legally
Security deposits serve as a protection for Florida landlords, ensuring that if a tenant damages an rental or refuses to pay rent, landlords have an option for recouping their losses. Whether you rent property in Miami, Hollywood, or any other Florida community, it's essential to handle security deposits in a legally compliant manner.
At Flaxman Law Group, we've seen frequent Florida landlord-tenant disputes over security deposits, which is why we've put together this guide with insights and tips on when and how to withhold security deposits from tenants while adhering to Florida's laws. If you do find yourself in a landlord-tenant dispute over security deposits or any other issue, contact Flaxman Law Group for a free consultation with a Florida landlord-tenant attorney. We have offices in Miami, Hollywood, and Homestead so it's convenient to work with us.Understand Florida Laws About Security Deposits
Stay familiar with Florida's current laws about security deposits. Details such as the maximum allowable deposit amount, the timeline for returning deposits, and the permissible reasons for withholding can change, so you need to know current regulations to stay compliant.Current Permissible Reasons for Withholding Florida Security Deposits
Under current laws, Florida landlords can withhold a portion of security deposits in cases involving:
- Unpaid Rent. If a tenant doesn't pay rent, as required in their lease agreement, landlords can withhold part of the security deposit to cover the outstanding amount. Keep accurate records of rent payments and outstanding amounts to understand how much you can withhold.
- Damage Beyond Normal Wear and Tear. Normal wear and tear includes the expected deterioration of the property resulting from ordinary use. You cannot deduct for this as a landlord in Florida. You can deduct for damages beyond normal wear and tear, which includes damages caused by negligence or intentional actions by the tenant. It's important to carefully document the damages by taking notes and photographs or videos, because landlords and tenants often disagree what amounts to normal wear and tear.
- Unfulfilled Obligations. If a tenant fails to fulfill specific obligations outlined in the lease agreement, such as paying or utility payments or leaving the rental premises in a clean and acceptable condition, landlords can withhold part of the security deposit to cover these costs.
If you're a landlord in Florida and you have a legal cause to withhold part of a tenant's security deposit, you still need to do so in compliance with the law. Here's how:
- Return the rest of a deposit promptly. Currently, landlords need to return the security deposit or the rest of the deposit within 15 to 60 days after the tenant leaves the property, though the exact timeframe will depend on the circumstances.
- Include an itemized statement. If you're deducting from the security deposit, you must provide tenants with an itemized statement, outlining the reasons for each deduction. The statement should include detailed descriptions of any damages, the cost of repairs, and any receipts or evidence.
- Send a written notice. Landlords in Florida need to provide a written notice to tenants if deductions are made from the security deposit. This notice should include the itemized statement, the amount deducted, and any remaining balance. Keep a copy of the written notice and proof of delivery in case of any dispute.
Tenants want their full security deposit back when they move out, and if part of it is withheld, they can object. As a landlord, there are a few things you can do to prevent a drawn-out dispute requiring a Florida landlord-tenant lawyer:
- Be fair. Make sure you're withholding part of the security deposit only for legitimate, legal reasons. Get multiple quotes and estimates for any repair work needed in the rental, so you withhold a fair amount.
- Keep evidence. For each rental, keep a file of photos, tenant communication, videos, and any other evidence of any conflicts, damages, or problems. If your situation ends up in court, evidence is crucial.
- Communicate often and in writing. Good communication builds trust and can reduce conflict. Be open about any expected deductions and review the rental agreement with your tenants to remind them of their obligations. Always communicate respectfully and in writing, so you have documentation of your interactions.
- Seek legal help promptly. If your tenant is not cooperating or in case of disputes or disagreements, don't hesitate. Seek legal advice or mediation from a Florida landlord-tenant dispute lawyer in Miami, Hollywood, or your Florida community before the situation becomes more difficult. A neutral third party can work to seek a resolution.
If you do need a landlord-tenant dispute attorney in Florida, contact Flaxman Law Group at 970-999-0530 for a free, no obligation consultation with an attorney who can answer your questions. Our offices in Miami, Homestead, and Hollywood are here for you.