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How to Make Sure You Get Your Security Deposit Back

Posted by Jane F. Bolin, Esq. | Dec 05, 2018 | 0 Comments

What can be deducted from your deposit and what can't?

In Florida, there is no limit on the amount a landlord can charge for a security deposit (though some cities and counties may implement caps). This means you could have to fork over a lot of money up front and should do everything you can to make sure you get that money back when you move out.

Many tenants wait until the last minute to repair something, or they don't realize what they can be deducted for, and when that reduced check comes, they're left with a big surprise.

First let's look at how your security deposit could be reduced, what your landlord isn't allowed to charge you for, and how to ensure you get everything back when you move out.

When can a landlord deduct funds from your security deposit?

Landlords can legally subtract from your security deposit for repairs or cleaning costs. This may happen if you don't leave your rental unit how you found it; aside from differences that are due to normal wear and tear. If your landlord asked for all the walls to remain a certain color, for instance, and you decide to paint them anyway and don't paint them back, you'll be charged what it costs for the landlord to repaint.

Funds may also be deducted from the deposit if you owe any utility costs, unpaid rent, or other fees. If you have violated the lease in some way, the landlord may also be able to subtract from your deposit under Florida law.

What a landlord can't charge you for

Under Florida law, your landlord cannot subtract from your deposit funds that cover normal wear and tear of the property. Examples include dust buildup, worn down rugs, or even mild carpet spots. These are considered to be natural damages that will happen no matter who lives in the property.

What you can do to ensure you get it back

Always read through your lease. It could stipulate that there are certain things you need to do before you move out. You don't want to get docked for something simple like repainting a room white.

It's a good idea to take photographs of your rental before you move in all your furniture. This way, if something is damaged that wasn't your fault, and the owner tries to charge you for it, you have proof that it was already in that condition when you moved in.

And finally, take good care of your place. Clean it fairly regularly, at least, so that gunk doesn't build up that would require extra cleaning for your landlord. Clean up any spills or pet accidents right away and with the right cleaning materials. And if something gets damaged, it may be easier and cheaper for you to fix it yourself rather than leaving it and waiting for the landlord to deduct the cost from your security deposit.

The key is to leave things just as you found them. Since normal wear and tear is expected, just try your best not to make anything worse.

Final considerations

Keep in mind that there are a few requirements that your landlord must follow. In Florida, landlords are required to inform you, the tenant, where they have deposited your money and the interest rate on the account. This is required as a written notice within 30 days of receiving the deposit. If your landlord invests your deposit in an interest-bearing account, you are entitled to receive 75 percent of the earned interest, or 5 percent each year.

Florida law also says that your security deposit must be returned to you within 15 days following your lease termination. So, make sure you receive the funds you're owed right away.

Additionally, if your landlord is subtracting anything from your deposit, they have to inform you within 30 days from lease termination via a written statement. If they fail to do so, they no longer can keep any of the security deposit, and they forfeit that right. You will then have 15 days to contest any deduction in writing.

If you need assistance navigating complex rental laws in Florida, PeytonBolin is ready to help. We aim to make the real estate legal process simple for our clients, whether dealing with condo associations, HOAs, or problems with landlords and owners. Get in touch with our experienced team today to schedule a consultation.

About the Author

Jane F. Bolin, Esq.

Founding Member, Managing Partner


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