Security deposits serve an important function in the landlord-tenant relationship and with Florida landlord-tenant law. On one hand, they incentivize a tenant to care for the rental unit so the deposit is refunded back when they leave.
On the other, the Florida statute ensures a landlord against specific kinds of loss caused by a tenant’s negligent or careless behavior.
Florida has statewide landlord-tenant laws which are contained in the FL Statute Chapter 83. Within these laws are the security deposit rules that every landlord within Florida must abide by when charging a security deposit.
Jilsa Management has put together this guide on how Florida landlords should, by law, manage their security deposits:
Defining the Maximum Security Deposit Value
As per the Florida security deposit laws, there are no limits as to how much of the tenant’s security deposit you can charge.
But it is worthwhile to keep the amount reasonable as overcharging will only drive away prospects, whereas undercharging can leave you vulnerable to potential financial losses. So, Florida landlords generally charge the tenant’s security deposit as the equivalent of a single month’s rent.
Charging a Pet Deposit
To protect them against animal damage, the security deposit law allows Florida landlords can charge an additional pet deposit. But you cannot charge a pet deposit for a service animal.
Disabled people who use service animals are entitled to equal access to housing as per the Fair Housing Act. So, charging them an additional deposit would be unlawful.
Storing a Security Deposit
As per Florida security deposit law, you have three options for storing your tenant’s security deposit:
- You can store your tenant’s deposit in a non-interest-bearing account. The account must be in a Florida bank and the funds must not be commingled with others.
- You can store your tenant’s deposit in an interest-bearing bank account in a Florida bank. Additionally, you must give or credit to your tenant the interest accrued annually. Commingling the deposit with other funds is also prohibited.
- You can also choose to post a surety bond. You must post the bond from a surety company that is licensed to operate as such by the circuit court’s clerk in the county your property is located in. The surety bond you post must be for the security deposit, or $50,000, whichever is less.
Writing A Notice of Receipt
As per the Florida security deposit laws, tenants have the right to an initial written notice after their landlord receives the deposit by certified mail.
Florida landlords have the responsibility to notify their tenants within 30 days of receiving their deposit. The written notice must also bear certain information:
- Provide the tenant written notice of the name and address of the financial institution holding it.
- Whether you are storing the tenant’s funds separately or are mixing them with others for your tenant’s benefit.
- The interest rate the funds are accruing if stored in an interest-bearing account.
Deducting from the Security Deposit
Landlord-tenant laws and Florida’s security deposit laws state that you can only make deductions to a tenant’s deposit for certain reasons at the point of lease termination, such as:
- If your tenant fails to make timely rent payments or leaves unpaid utilities. But if a landlord fails to keep the rental property in livable condition under the Fair Housing Act, then a tenant may be able to withhold rent legally.
- To cover damages exceeding normal wear and tear such as broken tiles, pet damage, broken windows, hole in the wall, and missing fixtures. This information should be gained through a walk-through inspection.
- If your tenant breaks the lease without a legally justifiable reason, you can use the security deposit to recover any losses found through a walk-through inspection.
However, security deposit laws do not state that these funds can be used as advance rent. So, any such agreement would need to be covered in the lease.
Returning Security Deposits
If you do not make any deductions to the security deposit, Florida security deposit laws state that you have 15 days to return the deposit after the Florida tenant moves out.
If there are deductions to be made, then you must notify your tenant of these deductions within 30 days. It is your tenant’s responsibility to provide you with a forwarding address.
Florida’s security deposit law states that if you fail to notify your tenant of the deductions, you will forfeit your right to withhold any portion of the deposit.
Under Florida security deposit laws, you have another 30 days to return the tenant’s deposit after the initial 30-days notice. But, if the tenant objects to the landlord’s claim, then the matter could go to a small claims court.
In this case, the party that wins in court will then be entitled to the funds, plus court and attorney fees from the losing party. For example, if the tenant wins, the landlord forfeits all rights to the security deposit.
Evictions also raise important questions when considering security deposits.
Selling the Rental Property
If you transfer property ownership, you will have one option to pursue. That is, transfer the deposit (or whatever amount remains of it), plus any accrued interest to the new landlord. You must also create a written receipt indicating the transferred amount.
After doing so, you will then be relieved of any responsibility regarding the storage of the tenant’s security deposit.
Using the Security Deposit as the Last Month’s Rent
Typically, tenants in Florida cannot use the deposit as rent. The only exception to this blanket rule is if there is a written agreement between both parties to the lease allowing it.
Understanding Florida security deposit laws are incredibly important for any landlord who chooses to charge a security deposit. These laws give you an understanding of how much you can charge, how to store and how to use the deposit under Florida laws.
If you have any further questions regarding security deposits it’s always good to contact a property management company such as ourselves at Jilsa Management. Contact us today!
Disclaimer: This blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney. Laws frequently change, and this post might not be updated at the time of your reading. Please contact us for any questions you have regarding this content or any other aspect of your property management needs.