Security Deposit Disputes
When landlords collect advance rent or security deposits, landlords are required to hold the money in a separate bank account in a Florida banking institution. The landlord is not permitted to commingle the money with any other money belonging to the landlord and may not use the money until the money actually becomes property of the landlord. Some landlords are required to notify the tenant in writing in the lease agreement or within 30 days after the receipt of advance rent or a security deposit that states the name and address of the bank where the money in being held and whether the money is entitled to earn interest. The law requires exact statutory language to be used when providing the disclosure to the tenant. After the tenant vacates the property, the landlord is required to either (a) return the security deposit within 15 days; or (b) sent the tenant a written notice by certified mail to the tenant’s last known mailing address of the landlord’s intention to impose a claim on the deposit and the detailed reasons for imposing the claim. We recommend that the landlord itemize the damage and the amount to repair or replace wherever possible. The more detailed the notice, the better it will hold up in court. Once again, the law requires very specific language in providing this notice. The tenant then has 15 days to object to the deduction in writing. If the tenant fails to object within 15 days of receiving the certified mail letter, then the landlord is entitled to apply the deposit to the damages.
Security deposit disputes that end up in court provide that the party who wins the lawsuit is entitled to the reimbursement of their court costs and attorney’s fees. This rule is designed to provide tenants with access to the court system to resolve security deposit disputes which they might not otherwise be able to afford. Landlords who fail to follow these procedures can find themselves being responsible for returning the deposit money plus costs and attorney’s fees that well exceed the amount of the deposit they are looking to retain.
If you are a landlord who collects advance rent or security deposits, we urge you to contact us to review your paperwork to ensure that you are in compliance with the law. Landlords who have been sued for failure to return a security deposit should contact us today to review their case.
If you are a tenant who believes that your security deposit has been wrongfully withheld by a landlord, contact us today for a free consultation to assist you in recovering your deposit. In many circumstances, we may be able to take your case on contingency which means that we only collect a fee if we are successful in recovering your deposit.