Residential Leases and Security Deposits

Most people have at one time or another been a tenant in a residential property. Security deposits for the lease of a residential property are not uncommon in Florida. Such deposits are typically paid to landlords to be held as security for damage that may caused to the property by the tenant or in the event of the tenant’s failure to pay rent.

Upon vacating the property at the end of a residential lease, assuming no other issues are present, the tenant is entitled to the return of the full security deposit paid to the landlord. Florida Statute 83.49(3) requires that the landlord return the deposit to the tenant within 15 days of the date the tenant vacates the property.

If, however, the landlord wishes to make a claim against the deposit, the landlord must notify the tenant by certified mail within 30 days of the date the tenant vacates the property. It is important to note that if the landlord does not return the deposit within 15 days and does not impose a claim on the deposit within 30 days as provided by the statute, the landlord loses any potential claim against the deposit. This can be a critical mistake for landlords who do not act within the statutory time frame.

So what happens if you are a tenant and your landlord refuses to return your security deposit and fails to impose a claim against the deposit as described above? You have the right under Florida Statutes to bring an action against the landlord in court (typically the county court of the county where the property is situated) to recover the deposit. In addition, the statute provides that the prevailing party is also entitled to recover costs and attorneys fees. This means that a tenant can collect the full deposit as well as all of the costs incurred in doing so.

What if you are a landlord and you want to make a claim against the deposit for damage to the property caused by the tenant? Within 30 days of the date that the tenant vacates the property at the end of the lease, the landlord may impose a claim against the tenant’s security deposit by notifying the tenant in writing by certified mail. The notice must indicate the amount of and reason for the claim. The tenant then has 15 days from the receipt of the notice to object to the landlord’s claim. If no objection is made, the landlord may deduct the amount of the claim from the deposit and remit the remainder, if any, to the tenant within 30 days of the date of the notice to impose a claim.

Remember, if you are a tenant or a landlord facing issues regarding residential leases, you have rights as provided for by Florida Statutes. For further information about your rights, please contact our office at (813) 225-1918.


Jaremy J. Shelton, Esq.


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