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:
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.