When May a Landlord Withhold a Tenant’s Security Deposit?

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A security deposit is a refundable fee a landlord takes from a tenant at the start of a lease term. Landlords may withhold security deposits for several reasons, such as protection against damage to the premises, to cover a loss due to non-payment of rent, or to cover unpaid utilities once the tenant has vacated the premises.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Security Deposit Back from a Landlord in Florida?

Per Florida law, a landlord must return a tenant’s security deposit within 15 to 60 days after the tenant has returned the keys and vacated the property. However, this is contingent on whether the landlord intends to claim all or a portion of the security deposit.

May a Landlord Withhold a Tenant’s Security Deposit due to Ordinary Wear and Tear of the Premises in Florida?

Under Florida law, a tenant has a duty to return a rented premise in the same condition as when he or she first took possession, beyond normal wear and tear.  A landlord is not permitted to withhold a tenant’s security deposit for expenses associated with a property’s ordinary wear and tear, such as routine painting, air filter maintenance, and small scuffs on the floors. Lease agreements will usually describe what is considered ordinary wear and tear and what the tenant is expected to do upon vacating the rented property. If the lease happens to be silent on the matter, Florida common law will control in the event a dispute arises.

What May a Landlord Deduct from a Tenant’s Security Deposit in Florida?

A landlord may deduct any damage done by the tenant that exceeds ordinary wear and tear in light of the length of time the tenant was in possession of the rented premise. As opposed to ordinary wear and tear, damage is not naturally occurring. Rather, damage is considered harm that affects the property’s value or functionality, which can be committed purposefully or through neglect. Some examples of damage include:

  • A hole in the middle of a door or wall;
  • Missing door handles/locks;
  • Windows broken or severely damaged;
  • Unapproved wallpaper. 

How Long Does a Landlord Have to Notify a Tenant of Intention to Impose Claim on Security Deposit?

If a landlord intends to withhold a tenant’s security deposit, he or she must send the tenant a written notice of intention to impose claim against the whole or portion of security deposit and the reason behind it. The landlord must send the notice within 30 days of the tenant vacating the rental unit, by certified mail to the tenant’s last known mailing address. If the landlord fails to send the notice within the 30-day period, the landlord waives his right to keep the security deposit.

What Must a Tenant do to Object to a Landlord’s Notice of Intention to Impose Claim on Security Deposit in Florida?

A tenant has 15 days from the day the notice was received to send a written objection of the landlord’s claim by certified mail. If a tenant fails to make a timely objection, the landlord may deduct the amount of his or her claim. The landlord must then send the tenant any remaining balance of the deposit within 30 days after the date of the notice. Subsequently, if no agreement is reached and an action is filed, the prevailing party is entitled to recover reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.

EPGD Business Law is located in beautiful Coral Gables, West Palm Beach and historic Washington D.C. Call us at (786) 837-6787, or contact us through the website to schedule a consultation.

*Disclaimer: this blog post is not intended to be legal advice. We highly recommend speaking to an attorney if you have any legal concerns. Contacting us through our website does not establish an attorney-client relationship.*

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Oscar Gomez

Oscar A. Gomez is a Partner and Chair of the Litigation Practice Group at EPGD Business Law. His practice focuses on Business Litigation, including but not limited to Business & Partnership Disputes.


*The following comments are not intended to be treated as legal advice. The answer to your question is limited to the basic facts presented. Additional details may heavily alter our assessment and change the answer provided. For a more thorough review of your question please contact our office for a consultation.

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