When it comes to renting a residential property to a future tenant, a landlord will want to consider charging a security deposit prior to the tenancy commencing. A security deposit is a payment required by a landlord to ensure that a tenant pays rent on time and keeps the rental unit in good condition. The most common reason why a landlord would charge a tenant a security deposit is to cover any damages the tenant may cause during their tenancy. When it comes to security deposits there are procedures that landlord must follow pursuant to Florida Statute. Failure to follow the procedures set forth in Florida Statute §83.49 can result in a claim against the landlord and even the landlord being forced to forfeit their right to the security deposit.
When determining how much to charge a tenant for a security deposit, a landlord will consider many factors, including but not limited to state laws governing security deposits, price of the rental unit, the amenities a property provides the tenant, the tenant’s creditworthiness, and what the competition charges. Florida has no laws governing how much a landlord can charge for a security deposit. However, landlords typically charge between one to two months’ worth of rent as a security deposit. Additionally, a security deposit is not to be mistaken as rent, and is never considered a rent payment. Although tenants may ask their landlord to apply the security deposit as a rental payment in the event they are unable to pay in a timely manner, a security deposit should be held and not counted as rent.
Pursuant to Florida Statute a landlord has fifteen (15) days after the termination of the tenancy to return the security deposit unless the landlord intends to make a claim on the security deposit for damage to the property, then the landlord has thirty (30) days to make a claim, in writing, to the tenant’s last known address. For example, Larry the Landlord and Terry the Tenant end their tenancy and Terry vacates the property. Larry does a walkthrough three (3) days after Terry vacates and notices that Terry has left the place a mess with holes in the wall. Larry then sends a certified letter to Terry informing him that Larry is imposing a claim on his security deposit for the damages. Here, Larry has met the notice requirement for imposing a claim on Terry’s security deposit. However, should the landlord fail to provide notice within thirty (30) days of the tenancy concluding, the landlord forfeits their right to impose a claim on the tenant’s security deposit.
Although a landlord forfeits their right to the tenant’s security deposit should they fail to meet the notice requirement, a landlord may still file an action against the tenant after the landlord sends the tenant their deposit back. Florida courts have held that there is no fifteen (15) day statute of limitations for a landlord to file suit for damages to a rental property. For example, Larry sent Terry his deposit back five (5) days after the conclusion of the tenancy and after Larry’s initial inspection of the property. Twenty days later, Larry inspects the property and finds damages that were not visible during his initial inspection, including damage to the air handler and plumbing. Due to the excessive damages left by Terry, Larry is able to file suit against Terry to try to recover the damages he left at the property.
Should a tenant not raise an objection to landlord’s claim for the security deposit, the landlord must deduct the amount they are claiming and send the tenant back the rest of the security deposit. If the landlord fails to do this, they are not able to make a claim on the tenant’s security deposit, and if judicial intervention is necessary to cover damages, the landlord will most likely have to file a separate lawsuit against the tenant for damages.
At the end of the day, the main reason security deposits exist is to ensure the tenant pays their rent on time and as a security cushion for landlords in the event a tenant damages the property upon the conclusion of the tenancy. Florida statute helps guide the path for the procedures for landlords on what they need to do and when they need to do it in order to pursue a claim on a security deposit. To learn more about security deposits, click here to contact an attorney.