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Many landlords require that tenants pay a security deposit before they are given the keys to their rental. A security deposit is a payment a tenant makes once, usually in addition to their first month’s rent. 

This deposit is refundable and helps cushion a landlord against any property damage that could result from a tenant’s negligence. Examples of such negligence include the following:  

  • Carpets soaked with pet urine
  • Missing or damaged door locks or handles
  • Broken toilet seats
  • Smashed/broken bathroom mirrors

If a tenant causes any of these damages, a landlord is legally permitted to deduct the appropriate amount from their security deposit to cover the cost of repair. This is outlined in the Florida landlord-tenant law.

Reasons Why Landlords Require A Security Deposit Before Lease Signing

The following are some of the reasons why landlords require tenants to pay a security deposit:

  • Excessive property damage: As mentioned, security deposits help provide a financial cushion for repairs because of property damage.
  • To cover unpaid utility costs: Some utility costs fall under the landlord’s responsibility while others under the tenant. If the tenant fails to pay these costs before moving out, the landlord has the right to deduct the appropriate cost from the tenant’s security deposit. 
  • Covering for lost rental income: A landlord may lose rental income in a few ways. For example, when a tenant abandons the unit or chooses to break their lease early. In such a case, the security deposit provides a cushion against these income losses.  
  • Excessive cleaning costs: Most leases are clear in regard to what state a tenant should leave the property in on moving out. If a tenant fails to meet these expectations, the landlord can use part of their security deposit to cover professional cleaning costs.
florida landlord tenant law deposit

Rental Security Deposit Florida – Guide

Security Deposit Limits

In Florida, landlords have no restrictions on how much they can charge as a security deposit. Generally speaking, however, landlords charge a reasonable amount. A reasonable amount is usually no more than the equivalent of two months’ rent. Overcharging will usually result in longer vacancies, which no landlord wants. 

Security Deposit Storage

Technically, the security deposit does not belong to the landlord. They simply hold on to it as a loan for the entire duration the tenant lives in the property.  

This means that the landlord must keep the deposit safe. In Florida, a landlord has three options in regard to where they can keep a deposit.  

The first option a landlord has is to post it as a surety bond. The bond should equal the security deposit amount, or $50,000, whichever is less. In this option, the landlord must pay the tenant 5% interest every year. 

The second option a landlord has is to place the deposit in an interest-bearing account. The banking institution must be in the state of Florida and the landlord must pay the tenant any interest that accrues on the amount each year. 

The last option a landlord has in Florida is to put the deposit in a non-interest earning account. With this option, the landlord should not combine the deposit with any other amount of money or use it before it’s due to be returned to the tenant.

Florida Landlord Deposit Return Letter

In Florida, the security deposit law requires landlords to notify their tenants upon receiving their security deposit. This notice must be written and sent to the tenant within a period of 30 days. 

tenant rights florida security deposit

The notice must meet the following requirements:

  • Is delivered in person or by mail to the tenant
  • Includes the interest rate, if it has been placed in an interest-earning account
  • States how the deposit is being held
  • States the name and address of the baking institution where it is held 

A Walk-Through Inspection

Some states require that landlords and tenants perform a walk-through inspection upon move-in. This allows them to document the condition of the property prior to moving in, so the tenant knows what state it should be in upon moving out. This also gives the landlord time to fix any pre-existing damages.

This is not required prior to a tenant moving out. 

Security Deposit Deductions

Florida landlord-tenant law allows landlords to make deductions from their tenants’ deposits in the case of there being property damage. The damage must be as a result of a tenant’s negligence or carelessness and not from normal wear and tear. Examples of this include:

Tenant Damage (Tenant’s Responsibility) Normal Wear and Tear (Landlord’s Responsibility)
Unauthorized paint colors Fading paint from sunlight 
Damage on the walls from hanging pictures Cracks in the walls as a result of settling
Stains, burnt areas, and/or chipped countertops Scratches and light watermarks
Broken window hardware, ripped screens, broken glass Worn/loose hardware and/or lightly scratched glass
Missing/chipped/broken tiles  Dirty grout surrounding the tiles
Pieces of the hardwood missing or deeply scratched hardwood floors Fading of the flooring due to sunlight exposure
Damage caused by pets such as ripped or heavily stained carpeting Gently worn carpets that show worn patches but no stains or holes
landlord claim on security deposit

Change in Property Ownership

In the event the property changes ownership, the landlord must fulfill certain conditions. They must transfer the deposit and any interest accrued to the incoming landlord. In addition, the outgoing landlord must notify the tenant about these changes. 

Only after the outgoing landlord has done these two things can they be relieved of any responsibility for holding the tenant’s security deposit. 

Returning a Tenant’s Deposit

A landlord must return the security deposit, in its full or partial sum, within 15 days after a tenant moves out. If there are deductions, the landlord will have 30 days from the date of the lease termination to notify the tenant of this.

The notice must be sent via certified mail, include a statement of the intention to keep a portion or all of the security deposit, and the justification for this. In addition, it must inform the tenant that they have 15 days from the day they receive the notice to contest these deductions in a Florida security deposit demand letter.

If you have more questions regarding Florida security deposit laws, please seek professional service from a qualified property management company, such as Re/Max Infinity Property Management.