main image

Overview of Florida Security Deposit Law

Camila Lopez - Florida Landlord Complaints - June 6, 2024

Ready to write a demand letter to your landlord? Use our free demand letter creator.

Start Demand Letter

Contents

    People Clerk is dedicated to ensuring that the law is accessible to all. If you're in a situation where your landlord doesn't return your security deposit, you may be wondering about your options for recovering it. To assist you, we have put together a comprehensive guide that covers all the essential aspects of Florida's security deposit law, known as Florida Civil Practice and Procedure 83.49.

    Some questions answered in this article:

    • How should I prepare before moving out?

    • What should I know about Florida's security deposit law?

    • What can I do if my landlord improperly withholds my security deposit?

    Did you know we have a free tool powered by AI that helps you create a demand letter to your landlord for the return of your security deposit? Check out our demand letter tool.

    Overview of Florida Security Deposit Law

    How long does my landlord have to return my security deposit in Florida?


    Your landlord has 15 days from when you move out to return your full security deposit

    IF your landlord intends to make deductions to your security deposit, they must notify you in writing 30 days from when you move out.

    IF you have objections, you have 15 days from when you received notice to make your objections. 

    IF there aren’t any objections, your landlord has 30 days from when they sent the notice to return the remaining balance of your security deposit, if any.

    This is a summarized answer. See more information on this below.

    What do landlords usually deduct from security deposits? 

    Usually, landlords deduct money from a tenant’s security deposit for the following circumstances: 

    Unpaid rent.

    Damages caused by the tenant beyond “normal wear and tear.”

    Fees covered in the rental agreement. For example, an early lease termination fee.

    How can my Florida landlord store my security deposit?

    There are 3 ways your landlord can store your security deposit:

    In a non-interest-bearing account.

    In an interest-bearing account.

    Post it as a surety bond.

    See more information on this below.

    Can I receive interest from my security deposit in Florida?

    Yes, if it is held in an interest-bearing account or secured through a surety bond. 

    See more information on this below.

    Here is our security deposit 50-state guide for more information on security deposits outside of Florida. 

    Increase Your Chances of Getting Your Security Deposit Back With Our Pre-Move Out Checklist

    Take Photos

    Photo evidence is one of the keys to keeping your security deposit, as it can help you prove the condition the apartment was in before you moved in. 

    • When you first move in, have a camera so you can make a record of what the unit looked like before you started living there.

    • This is especially important if your unit has any pre-existing damage (scuff marks, stains, etc.) left by previous tenants. If it does, write down a list of everything you find and contact your landlord about getting the damage repaired. 

    • Since a move-in inspection is not required, having thorough documentation of any and all pre-existing damage can make the difference between winning or losing a small claims suit.

    • Regardless of the circumstances, it is always better to have the evidence and never need it than have deductions made to your Florida security deposit for damages caused by a previous tenant and no way to prove that damage was already there.

    Announce Your Move-Out

    Before you move out, you need to review your lease to see if there are any notice or timeline requirements. If there is no specific requirement in your lease, Florida law requires tenants to give at least 7 days written notice (either by certified mail or personal delivery) to the landlord prior to moving out

    Florida Civil Practice and Procedure 83.49 (5)

    “Except when otherwise provided by the terms of a written lease, any tenant who vacates or abandons the premises prior to the expiration of the term specified in the written lease, or any tenant who vacates or abandons premises which are the subject of a tenancy from week to week, month to month, quarter to quarter, or year to year, shall give at least 7 days’ written notice by certified mail or personal delivery to the landlord prior to vacating or abandoning the premises which notice shall include the address where the tenant may be reached. Failure to give such notice shall relieve the landlord of the notice requirement of paragraph (3)(a) but shall not waive any right the tenant may have to the security deposit or any part of it.”

    Consider including the following details in your move-out notice:

    • Provide the address you are moving from, to serve as a reference point for your landlord.

    • The date you write the letter.

    • The date you intend to move out.

    • Your new forwarding address so that your landlord knows where to send your security deposit. 

    • Although a pre-move-out inspection is not required in Florida, it may be worth asking your landlord if you can be present during your landlord’s final inspection. If your landlord identifies damages during the inspection that are your responsibility to fix, you can ask for time to fix those damages before any deductions are made from your security deposit.

    Providing notice is best practice; however, Florida law states if you don’t give notice, you are still entitled to the return of your security deposit

    Clean Thoroughly

    Make sure your unit is in the best possible condition when you move out. If your landlord needs to spend money to clean the unit to the same level of cleanliness as when you initially moved in, they may deduct a cleaning fee from your security deposit. 

    Aside from general cleaning, here are some common repairs that you can do to your unit before moving out that can save you some of your security deposit:

    • Patch any holes in your walls.

    • If you’ve painted your walls, repaint them to the pre-approved color they came in. You can do this by taking a chip of the original paint to a hardware store, where it can be precisely color-matched.

    • Clean any stains in rugs or carpets thoroughly. 

    • Remove water stains on window stills and wood floors.

    • Clean off all surfaces, including the inside of drawers, cupboards, and cabinets.

    • Unclog shower and sink drains, as well as toilets.

    • Reattach any shutters or doors that have been taken off their hinges.

    • Treat wood floor scuffs and replace broken tiles.

    • Disinfect and deep clean areas like the bathroom and kitchen.

    Once you finish cleaning, take pictures of the unit before moving out. Save them as proof against any unfair deductions to your security deposit. 

    What Should I Know About Florida Security Deposit Law 

    How Long Does My Landlord Have to Return My Security Deposit in Florida?

    If the landlord is returning the full security deposit

    • Then they have 15 days from when you move out to return the security deposit (along with interest, if applicable).

    • See Florida Civil Practice and Procedure 83.49 (3)(a); “upon the vacating of the premises for termination of the lease, if the landlord does not intend to impose a claim on the security deposit, the landlord shall have 15 days to return the security deposit together with interest if otherwise required…”

    If the landlord intends to make deductions to the security deposit

    •  They must notify you in writing 30 days from when you move out. This written notice must include the reason why they are making the deductions and must be sent via certified mail.  

    • See Florida Civil Practice and Procedure 83.49 (3)(a); “…the landlord shall have 30 days to give the tenant written notice by certified mail to the tenant’s last known mailing address of his or her intention to impose a claim on the deposit and the reason for imposing the claim.”

    If the landlord fails to send notice of deductions within the 30-day period

    • They lose the right to make any deductions from the security deposit or use it to cover any expenses or costs related to alleged damages. This means they must return the full deposit

    • However, the landlord may still pursue legal action to seek damages once the security deposit has been returned to the tenant. For example, they can sue you in small claims court. 

    • See Florida Civil Practice and Procedure 83.49 (3)(a); “if the landlord fails to give the required notice within the 30-day period, he or she forfeits the right to impose a claim upon the security deposit and may not seek a setoff against the deposit but may file an action for damages after return of the deposit.”

    If you object to your landlord’s intended deductions from your security deposit: 

    •  You have 15 days from the date you received their written notice to express your objection to the deductions in writing

    If you don't object to the deductions stated in the landlord's written notice: 

    • The landlord may deduct the specified amount and return any remaining balance to you within 30 days from the date they sent the written notice. However, even if you missed the 15-day objection period, you still have the option to pursue legal action separately to seek damages. 

    • See Florida Civil Practice and Procedure 83.49 (3)(a); “unless the tenant objects to the imposition of the landlord’s claim or the amount thereof within 15 days after receipt of the landlord’s notice of intention to impose a claim, the landlord may then deduct the amount of his or her claim and shall remit the balance of the deposit to the tenant within 30 days after the date of the notice of intention to impose a claim for damages. The failure of the tenant to make a timely objection does not waive any rights of the tenant to seek damages in a separate action.

    Please note, under Florida Civil Practice and Procedure 83.49 (3)(c), either you or your landlord can ask for reasonable attorney’s fees if you end up suing in court.

    What Can My Landlord Legally Deduct From My Security Deposit?

    The Florida statute that covers security deposits does not explicitly state the reasons a landlord can deduct from a tenant’s security deposit. 

    However, here are at least 3 common situations where a landlord can legally deduct from a tenant’s security deposit: 

    1. A landlord can deduct to cover unpaid rent

    2. A landlord can deduct to cover damages caused by the tenant beyond “normal wear and tear.” Normal wear and tear is usually defined as the damages that naturally occur as a result of normal use or aging. For example, small nail holes on the wall from hanging up pictures or mirrors tend to be normal wear and tear. 

    3. A landlord can deduct to cover fees stated in the rental agreement. For example, your rental agreement stated you would have to pay a fee if you moved out early from the rental unit. 

    Did you know we have a free tool powered by AI that helps you create a demand letter to your landlord for the return of your security deposit? Check out our demand letter tool.

    How Can My Florida Landlord Store My Security Deposit?

    There are 3 different ways your landlord can store your security deposit:

    1. In a non-interest-bearing account.

    2. In an interest-bearing account.

    3. Post it as a surety bond.

    Florida Civil Practice and Procedure 83.49 (1)(a)-(c) 

    (a) “Hold the total amount of such money in a separate non-interest-bearing account in a Florida banking institution…”

    (b) “Hold the total amount of such money in a separate interest-bearing account in a Florida banking institution…”

    (c) “Post a surety bond, executed by the landlord as principal and a surety company authorized and licensed to do business in the state as surety…”

    The landlord is required to send you written notice notifying where they stored your security deposit 30 days after receiving it. This must include the name and address of the financial institution (i.e., a bank) holding the deposit, how the deposit is being held, and whether you are entitled to the interest rate on the deposit. 

    Florida Civil Practice and Procedure 83.49 (2)

    “The landlord shall, in the lease agreement or within 30 days after receipt of advance rent or a security deposit, give written notice to the tenant which includes disclosure of the advance rent or security deposit… The written notice must:

    1. Be given in person or by mail to the tenant.

    2. State the name and address of the depository where the advance rent or security deposit is being held or state that the landlord has posted a surety bond as provided by law.

    3. State whether the tenant is entitled to interest on the deposit.”

    Can I Receive Interest From My Security Deposit in Florida?

    Yes, it is possible to receive interest on your security deposit if it is held in an interest-bearing account or secured through a surety bond. A surety bond is a promise made by someone (the surety) to pay or compensate another person (the obligee) if a third person (the principal) fails to fulfill certain obligations or commitments.

    Details regarding interest should have been disclosed in the written notice sent by the landlord at the beginning of your tenancy. However, Florida law states that:

    • For an interest-bearing account, the tenant receives interest either at a rate of at least 75% of the average interest rate paid on the account or at a fixed rate of 5% per year, whichever option the landlord chooses.

    • For surety bonds, the tenant receives annual interest of 5% on the deposit.

    Florida Civil Practice and Procedure 83.49 (1)(b)-(c)

    (b) “...in which case the tenant shall receive and collect interest in an amount of at least 75 percent of the annualized average interest rate payable on such account or interest at the rate of 5 percent per year, simple interest, whichever the landlord elects”.

    (c) “...the landlord shall pay to the tenant interest at the rate of 5 percent per year, simple interest”.

    In these cases, the landlord has the option to either directly pay the interest to you or apply it towards the rent for the current month. Unless, you end your lease early in violation of your lease agreement

    Florida Civil Practice and Procedure 83.49 (9)

    In those cases in which interest is required to be paid to the tenant, the landlord shall pay directly to the tenant, or credit against the current month’s rent, the interest due to the tenant at least once annually. However, no interest shall be due to a tenant who wrongfully terminates his or her tenancy prior to the end of the rental term.

    What Should I Do If My Landlord Improperly Withholds My Security Deposit?

    If your landlord is withholding your security deposit illegally, you can take legal action against them.

    Below we will go over two important options: 

    1. Send a demand letter

    2. Sue your landlord in small claims court 

    Send Your Landlord a Demand Letter

    A demand letter is a letter that outlines a set of requests. For example, if your landlord doesn’t return your security deposit, you could write them a demand letter requesting your security deposit back. In some cases, the landlord might return your security deposit after receiving a demand letter to avoid a lawsuit.

    In order to be effective, your letter should answer the following questions:

    • How much money are you owed? Are you owed your full security deposit or a portion?

    • Why should your landlord return your security deposit?

    • How can your landlord reach you?

    • Where should your landlord send payment? 

    If you cannot solve your dispute after filing a demand letter, you may want to consider suing your landlord in small claims court.

    Did you know we have a free tool powered by AI that helps you create a demand letter to your landlord for the return of your security deposit? Check out our demand letter tool.

    Sue Your Landlord in Florida Small Claims Court

    Small claims court is a type of court that provides the public with a forum for quick, efficient, and affordable resolution of disputes. Consider taking your case to small claims court to recover your security deposit. 

    In the case of a lawsuit to get your security deposit back, make sure you are suing your landlord and not the wrong party. For example:

    How Else Can You Resolve Your Dispute With Your Landlord?

    File a Complaint Against Your Landlord 

    You may be able to file a complaint against a landlord with a government or nongovernment organization for wrongfully keeping your security deposit.

    Here are some organizations that allow you to file a complaint against a landlord or apartment complex: 

    Mediation

    Besides suing your landlord for your security deposit in small claims court, consider mediating your dispute with your landlord

    • Mediation is a meeting between you, the other party, and a neutral third person called a mediator

    • Mediation is an effort to see if the parties can come to a mutually agreeable solution or settlement.

    • A mediator will not decide the case for you during the mediation. The mediator is there to facilitate a conversation between you and your landlord. 

    • Mediation is available at no cost to small claims litigants in Florida Courts.

    Don't forget about our free tool powered by AI that helps you create a demand letter to your landlord for the return of your security deposit. Check out our demand letter tool.

    Author

    Camila Lopez

    Legal Educator @ People Clerk. Camila holds a law degree and is a certified mediator. Her passion is breaking down complicated legal processes so that people without an attorney can get justice.

    Subscribe for Small Claims Tips