Hundreds of thousands of people rent property in Florida. Some rent because they are only here part of the year; others rent because it is a more attractive option than buying. Whatever your reasons may be for renting, you should know your rights as a tenant.
For instance, if you rent, then you likely paid a security deposit. In most cases, renters expect to receive all or part of this deposit back upon the expiration of a lease. However, there are some circumstances under which a landlord may keep the deposit, not all of which are lawful.
A security deposit can be used as advance rent or to secure the performance of your rental agreement. As such, legitimate reasons why a landlord might keep a security deposit include:
- To cover excessive damage to the property
- To replace stolen or missing items
- To hire exterminators due to pest infestation
- To cover unpaid rent
A landlord cannot deduct money from or retain a security deposit for:
- Normal wear-and-tear
- Damage to property stemming from age rather than misuse
- Operational costs or expenses incurred by the landlord
- Utilities and other expenses that were not agreed to in the lease
In accordance with Florida landlord and tenant laws, landlords must return a deposit within 15 days of the termination of a lease. However, if they intend to retain all or part of the deposit, the landlord has 30 days to get a certified letter to the tenant informing them of the reasons for the claim on the deposit.
If you object to the claim on a deposit, you have 15 days from the time you receive the letter to submit a written objection.
Understanding the basic elements of renting in Florida can be crucial in resolving any legal dispute that may arise, including wrongful retention of a security deposit. Having said that, you don’t need to be a legal professional to sign a lease.
However, to avoid or resolve complicated legal matters when signing or challenging a lease, you can work with an attorney who has the knowledge and experience in Florida rental laws that you do not.