Understanding Florida Landlord Security Deposit Obligations

Anyone who’s ever looked for property to rent in Florida before knows that most leases require you to send your landlord a security deposit.

But when you transfer over that deposit to your landlord, where does the money actually go? What information about the deposit are you entitled to? What do you do if your landlord claims you broke the lease and attempts to withhold your deposit?

You can find everything you need to know in Florida Statute 83.49 [LINK to http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0000-0099/0083/Sections/0083.49.html]

Of course, no one wants to wade through dense paragraphs of complicated legal jargon. It might as well be a different language… So here are some of the key highlights from that statute, translated into plain English:

No Limit on Deposits

In Florida, there is no limit on how high a landlord can set the security deposit. But setting it too high would drive away potential tenants, so it’s rare for the deposit to be larger than one and a half month’s rent.

Where the Money Goes

Your landlord can store your deposit in one of the three following ways:

  • Non-Interest Bearing Account: The landlord can place the deposit in a non-interest bearing account. They are not allowed to use the money (unless the lease is broken) or mix it with other funds.
  • Interest-Bearing Account: The landlord can also place the deposit in an interest-bearing account. 75% of the annualized interest rate, or 5% simple interest, will be given back to the tenant (unless the tenant breaks the lease, in which case the landlord gets to keep all the interest).
  • Surety Bond: The last option for storing a security deposit is a surety bond, which protects the obligee (tenant) from the principal (landlord) reneging on the arrangement. The obligee/tenant is to be paid back 5% annual interest on their deposit (again, as long as they don’t break their lease).

The Written Notice Requirement

Your landlord is required to send you a written notice upon receipt of your deposit. This notice will include the name and address of the bank where your deposit is being held and the rate of interest that is being earned by the deposit (if applicable).

No Walkthrough Needed

Some states require landlords to walk through a former tenant’s unit and physically check for any damage before returning the security deposit. Florida is not one of those states, which slightly increases your chances of getting back your deposit.

What Happens When a Landlord Attempts to Withhold Your Deposit

If a landlord decides that enough damage has been inflicted upon the property to justify them keeping the deposit, they have 30 days to inform you of that fact.

Upon receipt of this notice, you have 15 days to contest it. If you choose to do so, the case will go to court, where a judge will decide if you deserve the deposit back or not. If you win the case, your landlord will also be responsible for all your court fees and lawyer bills associated with the case.

One piece of advice: the moment you move in, take pictures (preferably time-stamped pictures) of every room of your new place from many different angles. That way, if it does come down to a court case, you’ll have some evidence of what kind of shape the property was in before you moved in.

Hopefully it won’t come down to that, though. If you keep your place in good shape, you should be able to get your deposit back without any hassle.

If you have any questions about security deposits or anything else related to your rights as a tenant, or if you believe your landlord has failed to fulfill his or her obligations under F.S.83.49, feel free to contact the Law Office of Ray Garcia to learn how we can help!