A security deposit is any money a landlord takes from a tenant other than the advance rent payment. It’s a one-time fee that is refundable. Security deposits often cause problems between landlords and tenants. As such, it’s important for both parties to understand the basics of the Florida Security Deposit Law.
But why do Florida landlords collect a security deposit?
There are many reasons why Florida landlords collect security deposits. The main reasons are:
- Protection against damage to the premises – This is the most basic reason to collect a security deposit. The damage caused should, however, be beyond normal wear and tear.
- To cover a loss due to non-payment of rent.
- Early termination of lease – This constitutes a breach of contract. Here, the landlord will use the security deposit to help find a replacement tenant.
- To cover unpaid utilities upon a move-out.
- To cover the cost of cleaning – Tenants need to leave the rental premises in the exact same condition they found it in when they moved in. Sadly, most tenants don’t. The landlord will use the security deposit to restore the property back to its original form.
Every state within the US allows a landlord to collect a tenant’s security deposit. In Florida, the security deposits law is particularly clear on this topic.
If you are a landlord or a tenant in Florida, here are the basics of Florida’s Security Deposit Law you should know about.
Common Inquiries About Security Deposits in Florida
Is a walk-through inspection necessary? What reasons can make a landlord withhold a tenant’s security deposit?
Does the landlord need to give the tenant a written notice after receiving the security deposit?
How should a landlord store a tenant’s security deposit?
Is there a limit on the amount of security deposit a landlord could collect?
What happens to the security deposit when there is a change in property ownership?
When and how should a landlord return the tenant’s security deposit?
These questions are fundamental, so let’s expand on them a little bit…
1. Is a walk-through inspection necessary?
A walk-through inspection is when both the tenant and the landlord go through the rental premises to inspect for any illegal alterations or damage to the unit. In Florida, this isn’t necessary.
2. What reasons can make a landlord withhold a tenant’s security deposit?
Landlords can keep a tenant’s security deposit for many reasons. For example, to cover non-payment of rent, property damage in excess of normal wear and tear, and so on.
3. Does the landlord need to give the tenant a written notice after receiving the security deposit?
Yes. Under Florida landlord-tenant law, the landlord must give the tenant a written notice after receipt of the security deposit. The landlord must also give the notice to the tenant within thirty days. The contents of the notice must include details such as:
How the funds are being kept. For example, are they joined with other funds or are they kept separately?
The name and address of the storing institution.
Are the funds held in an interest accruing account? If so, what amount of interest rate is being accrued?
Delivery of the notice can either be in person or by mail. Moreover, if the landlord changes the name and address of the bank or institution where the security deposit is being kept, they are again required to notify the tenant within thirty days of doing so.
4. How should a landlord store a tenant’s security deposit?
Florida landlords have three options for storing a tenant’s security deposit: One, to post it as a surety bond. Two, to place it in an interest-bearing bank account. Third, to place it in a non-interest-bearing account.
For a surety bond, landlords must post it in the county where the rental property is located. The amount of bond should either be the amount of the security deposit or $50,000, whichever is less. The landlord must also pay the tenant a 5% annual interest on the bond. A surety bond is meant to protect the tenant should the landlord fail to fulfill his or her lease obligations.
For an interest-bearing account, the landlord is required to pay the tenant any interest earned annually and at the expiry of the lease term. The interest can be credited back to the tenant in the form of rent or it can be paid directly to the tenant.
For a non-interest-bearing account, the landlord must not mix the money with any other funds or use a portion of the money before it’s actually due to the landlord.
5. Is there a limit to the amount of security deposit?
At the state level, there is no limit. However, there may be laws at the city and county level. Usually, though, landlords charge the equivalent of a month’s rent. This amount helps protect Florida landlords against potential vacancy, eviction, and damage costs.
6. What happens to the security deposit in Florida when there is a change in property ownership?
In case there is a change in property ownership, the landlord is required to transfer the security deposits, as well as any accrued interest to the new owner. Again, a receipt of the funds’ transfer is required. Once this is done, the previous landlord will have no further responsibility in terms of the tenant’s security deposit.
7. How and when should a landlord return the tenant’s security deposit?
Florida’s Security Deposit Law requires a landlord to return the security deposit to the tenant within 15 to 60 days after the tenant moves out of the rental unit.
If a landlord plans to return all of the security deposit, then it must be done within fifteen days after the lease has been terminated. The landlord must also return all accrued interest on the tenant’s security deposit within this time frame.
If a landlord wishes to make deductions on the security deposit, then the law requires them to notify the tenant in writing of their intentions. The notice must be sent to the tenant thirty days after lease termination. Failure to so and the landlord may forfeit their right to make any deductions on the tenant’s security deposit.
The written notice must:
- Inform the tenant they have fifteen days from receipt of the letter to contest it. And if they wish to contest it, it must be done in writing.
- State the landlord’s intention to keep a portion or all of the security deposit and list the reasons why.
- Be sent by certified mail.
If the tenant doesn’t object a landlord’s claim to make deductions on the security deposit, then the landlord must send them the remaining portion of the deposit within thirty days of their initial written notice.
In case the tenant objects to the deductions, then the matter must be resolved in court. The party that wins will then be awarded the security deposit sum, plus attorney and court fees by the losing party.
This article is intended to be informational only and isn’t exhaustive or conclusive. If you have any specific question regarding Florida’s Security Deposit Law, we highly recommend you seek professional legal advice from a qualified attorney.