Is your landlord refusing to return your security deposit?
Find Out What Your Options Are.
Florida Statute 83.49: Landlord's obligation to return security deposit
A landlord must return the tenant's security deposit within 15 days after the tenant has returned the keys and vacated the property, if no notice of deductions are given by the landlord or the landlord has 30 days to give notice of the deductions. If the tenant disputes the deductions, either the landlord or the tenant will have to file a lawsuit to resolve the issue. If the tenant does not dispute the deductions, the landlord will then be authorized to deduct the charges from the security deposit.
Disputes over security deposits.
Disputes over security deposits are the most common disagreements between tenants and landlords. Because of this, states have laws with rules for, among other things, what landlords can use the security deposit for, and the timeline for when a landlord has to return the security deposit.
When you move out, the landlord has a finite amount of time to inspect the apartment for damages and to get estimates on what it will take to make repairs. The landlord can make the repairs, but can charge for the supplies and reasonable service charges. The landlord then has 30 days to give you a written statement on damages and repairs needed.
The total amount needed for repairs is deducted from the security deposit, and any amount that remains is returned to the tenant. That's why it's important to give a forwarding address to your landlord, to receive a written statement of damages, all or part of your security deposit or both. However, some landlords don't return any portion of the security deposit or give an account for damages.
If the landlord hasn't kept the security deposit safe in a separate account, then the tenant may have an argument and claim against the landlord for “unjust enrichment.” The basis for the argument is that a trial Judge won't consider the money to be a security deposit because the landlord failed to protect the money as outlined in the statute.
Even if you have a stellar relationship with your landlord, it is a good idea to take photos of the apartment before you move in and after you move out. This will be a great help to you if you need to dispute a landlord's claims that funds from the security deposit were necessary to repair damage or clean the apartment.
Make sure you're familiar with the conditions of your lease. Understand what must be done in order to have your security deposit returned. Your first step should always be to communicate your requests with the landlord. This can be done via phone call, email, or text. If your landlord ignores your requests, you should send written legal notice drafted by an attorney. This written notice is often enough to get your landlord to respond. It also serves as a necessary form of proof if the dispute ultimately turns into a legal battle.
Tenant's Clinic and tenantsclinic.com offers affordable, unbundled legal services to tenants who may be having their rights violated by their landlord. All of our documents are reviewed by experienced tenant legal representatives and are prepared in accordance with all applicable Florida statutes and Florida Court Rules.