Security deposits can be tricky for both landlords and tenants. If you’re going to have a tenant dispute, it’s likely going to revolve around the return of the security deposit. Florida has some pretty specific laws when it comes to security deposits, and today we’re discussing how to handle returning your tenant’s security deposit at the end of a lease.
Conducting a Move-Out Inspection
Before you make any decisions about the security deposit, you need to conduct an inspection of the property after your tenant moves out. You should have conducted an inspection before the tenant moved in, and if you did, take that checklist or inspection report and use it to complete your move-out inspection. You want the property to be returned to you in the same condition as it was when you handed it over to the tenant.
Make sure you take a lot of pictures. This can help you settle dispute or defend yourself against a claim. When you can show that something is damaged with pictures or video, your position is stronger if you withhold money from the deposit.
Wear and Tear vs. Damage
Landlords are permitted to withhold money from the security deposit to pay for damages left behind by the tenant. This might include broken appliances, large holes in walls or torn and scraped up flooring. If the property is not clean and all the personal belongings are not moved out, landlords can charge for cleaning and removal services.
However, wear and tear cannot be considered damage. The landlord is responsible for any work that’s required due to normal wear and tear. This might be small nail holes in the wall from where pictures were hung. It might be scuff marks from furniture or gentle wearing on the carpet in high traffic areas. You cannot take money out of the deposit for wear and tear.
Timeline for Security Deposit Return
Once you have conducted your inspection, you need to decide whether you will return all or some of the security deposit. If the tenant left the property in excellent condition and you see no reason to make any deductions, you need to return the security deposit within 15 days of a tenant moving out.
However, if you notice damages and you want to charge the tenant for them, you have 30 days to return the remainder of the security deposit and an itemized list of all the charges that will be paid for by the security deposit. Tenants must always receive advance notice that you’ll be keeping that money. If tenants dispute your charges, you’ll need to provide documentation why you’re withholding that money.
There are a lot of other laws pertaining to security deposits in Florida. You have to hold the money in a Florida bank, for example, and disclose to the tenants where that is. If you have any questions about how to return a security deposit lawfully, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Real Property Management Leaders. We can make the process less stressful for you.
We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.