Florida Tenant’s Right to a Notice of the Landlord’s Claim Against the Tenant’s Security Deposit
Is the landlord refusing to give back your security deposit? Is the Landlord avoiding you after you move out? Do your emails and phone calls to the landlord go unanswered?
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Florida’s landlord and tenant law is very clear, no notice to tenant, no security deposit money to landlord. There are specific steps a landlord must take regarding a tenant’s security deposits. The tenant’s security deposit is required to be in a separate account and held for the term of the lease for the tenant’s benefit. It is not for use by the landlord or tenant while the tenant is in possession of the rental home. When you move out, if the landlord does not follow the exact requirements of the law then the landlord’s right to withhold ANY of your security deposit money is completely forfeited. In almost all cases, if the landlord fails to comply with the requirements of Florida law the landlords must return 100% of the tenant’s security deposit. In those cases there can be no offset against your security deposit for any damages the landlord claims you caused.
Upon a tenant vacating a residential rental home at the end of the term of the lease, the landlord has only 30 days to send a written notice by certified mail to the tenant’s last known mailing address, that the landlord intends on making a claim against the tenant’s security deposit.
The notice must also state the reason the landlord entitled to the tenant’s security deposit. The landlord’s notice must also state that the tenant has 15 days after the tenant receives the landlord’s notice to object in writing to the landlord’s claim on the tenant’s security deposit. The landlord forfeits the right to claim any of the tenant’s security deposit if the landlord fails to follow these strict requirements of law and must return the security deposit to the tenant. Even if the landlord claims you damaged the rental home the landlord cannot sue you for the damages until the tenant’s security deposit is returned to the tenant.
The security deposit cannot be used to offset any damages the landlord alleges you caused until the Landlord returns your security deposit in full.
The landlord is not entitled to remove the security deposit from the bank where it is kept if the tenant objects to the landlord’s claim in writing within 15 days of receipt of the certified mail containing the landlord’s notice of intent to make a claim on the tenant’s security deposit.
Once the tenant properly objects to the landlord’s claim, the landlord may not remove any money from the bank where the security deposit is kept until both the landlord and tenant agree to an amount the landlord may keep (if any). If the parties cannot agree, the landlord or tenant may bring a lawsuit to determine who is entitled to the security deposit.
The landlord will have to pay the tenant’s attorney fees and court costs if the judge orders the landlord to return any of the security deposit to the tenant. The attorney fees and court costs will likely be more than the security deposit. Attorney fees will likely exceed $4,000.00 in a simple uncontested case and could exceed $36,000.00 in a contested case.
Should a Tenant go to court? Is it worth the time and money to take a landlord to court to get your security deposit back? Many attorneys have solved the problem for the tenant. They will represent you without a fee in anticipation that the landlord will have to pay their fee. In these arrangements, the attorney’s fee is contingent on his or her ability to win your case in court. Some judges will also award the attorney extra money for taking your case on a contingent fee bases.
It’s your money. If the landlords get away with keeping a tenants security deposit without any consequence, they will continue to do it to the next tenant, and the next and the next. If you can find an attorney that will take your case on a contingent fee basis it is likely worth your time and money.
Attorneys working on a contingent fee basis have a 95% success rate.