In Florida the Florida Residential Landlord and Tenant Act governs how security deposit can be handled. A security deposit is a common requirement a landlord may require in order to protect against excessive damages to the rental unit or for early termination of the lease.
However, a landlord is not permitted to keep a tenants security deposit unjustifiably. Florida statute 83.49(3)(a) requires a landlord to return a security deposit within 15 days after the end of the rental lease if the landlord does not intent to make a claim against the security deposit. If the landlord intents to apply the security deposit toward damages caused by the tenant, then the landlord must notify the tenant in writing by certified mail within 30 days of the end of the lease. §83.49(3)(a),Fla.Sta. (2018).
The landlord may withhold a security deposit because the tenant has caused excessive damages to the unit that goes beyond normal wear and tear. Excessive damages would be intentional or negligent actions that result in the physical damage to the structure of the unit. Furthermore, the landlord may withhold the security deposit if the lease agreement states that in the event the tenant breaches a section of the lease agreement and the breach results in damages.
The tenant is not completely without recourse if the landlord unjustifiably holds the security deposit. The tenant is permitted to bring a suit against the landlord and the prevailing party will be entitled to reasonable attorney fees and court cost. It is strongly advised before entering a rental lease agreement to fully read the lease agreement and ask questions about any section that it is not clear.
If you have any question about your lease agreement please feel free to contact The Legal Advocate to further discuss.