Florida Landlord Tenant Law has a step-by-step procedure for retention and return of a security deposit for a residential tenancy.
If a tenant deposited money with a landlord for advance rent or security for damages to the premises caused by the tenant, the landlord must return the security deposit within fifteen (15) days of the tenant vacating the premises upon termination of the lease if the landlord does not intend to impose a claim on the security deposit.
The landlord must give the tenant written notice within thirty (30) days of the tenant vacating the premises upon termination of the lease if the landlord intends to impose a claim on the security deposit. The notice must be by certified mail sent to the tenant at their last known address.
If the landlord fails to give the required notice, then the landlord forfeits the right to impose a claim on the security deposit. However, the landlord may file a separate action for unpaid rent or property damage independent of the deposit.
If the tenant objects to the landlord imposing a claim on the security deposit, the tenant must send the landlord a written objection with fifteen (15) days after receipt of the landlord’s notice of intention to impose a claim on the security deposit.
The tenants’ written objection should be sent by certified mail return receipt requested so that the tenant has proof of delivery. The failure of the tenant to make a timely objection waives their right to a return of the security deposit.
If the landlord and the tenant each correctly send the required notices and cannot reach an agreement regarding a return of the security deposit, then the parties are at a legal standoff. Thereafter, either party may institute an action in court to determine their right to the security deposit.
A judge will first determine whether the required notices were sent correctly and timely and then ultimately make the decision of whether the landlord property retained the security deposit. The prevailing party is entitled to recover reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.
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