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Security Deposit Withholding in Florida

In Florida, landlords can charge a security deposit to protect themselves from financial losses when they rent a house, condo, apartment, or other residential property. The law allows landlords the ability to withhold some or all of the security deposit in specific circumstances, but it’s common for landlord-tenant disputes to happen when security deposit withholding is needed.


If you are a tenant or landlord in Florida who can’t come to an agreement about security deposit withholding, contact Flaxman Law Group for a consultation with a landlord-tenant dispute attorney. Working with an attorney means there’s someone on your side, protecting your rights.

When Can a Landlord in Florida Withhold Part of a Security Deposit?

In Florida, landlords can withhold a portion of a security deposit only in the following cases:

  • To cover unpaid rent.
  • To cover the cost of any repairs to the property for damage that goes beyond normal wear and tear.
  • To cover any fees outlined in the rental agreement (such as a carpet cleaning fee, or a penalty for early termination of the lease)
  • To cover the cost of a violation of the lease agreement.

Landlords in Florida must return security deposits within 15 days if there is no withholding. If the landlord intends to make a withholding, they need to let the tenant know (in writing) within 30 days of the tenant moving out.

What Tenants Need to Know

When you decide to move out, you need to let the landlord know in writing. It’s also essential that you provide a forwarding address so the landlord can send your security deposit or a notice of claim, indicating an intention to withhold the security deposit.

If you’re a renter and your landlord has not sent your security deposit or a notice of claim against the security deposit within 30 days of you moving out, your landlord is required by law to return the entire security deposit to you. This doesn’t prevent the landlord from still suing for any property damage above and beyond normal wear and tear, however.

Should your landlord provide a claim against the security deposit within 30 days of you moving out, you need to carefully read the claim. You may even want to contact a lawyer. If you intend to object the amount of the withdrawal or the reason for it, you have 15 days from the time you receive the claim to do so.

When you send an objection, do so in writing and by registered mail. Be sure to keep a copy, too. It can be useful to have a landlord-tenant dispute attorney draft the objection, to prevent any errors.

Once your landlord has received your objection, he or she has to keep the security deposit until you have resolved the disagreement.

What Landlords Need to Know

Documentation is the best protection landlords have in disputes over security deposit withholding. A walk-through with a new tenant and documentation of the condition of the apartment at the time of move-in can help establish how much damage has occurred to an apartment over time. A move-out inspection and photographs of the apartment when a tenant moves out can further help you as a landlord prove the condition of the property.

If you do decide to withhold rent, always let the tenant know in writing and include an itemized list, outlining the withholding, the exact amounts, and the reasons. You might want to get contractor estimates for any damages to the property, so you can show you have used reasonable estimates for costs. Florida Statute 83.49 suggests the following language:

This is a notice of my intention to impose a claim for damages in the amount of [insert amount here] upon your security deposit, due to [reasons for withholding]. It is sent to you as required by s. 83.49(3), Florida Statutes. You are hereby notified that you must object in writing to this deduction from your security deposit within 15 days from the time you receive this notice or I will be authorized to deduct my claim from your security deposit. Your objection must be sent to [landlord’s address].

Since disputes over security deposit withholding can and do happen, landlords may want to avoid security deposits entirely. Under Florida Statute 83.491, you can offer renters the option to pay a monthly fee installment instead of a security deposit. This fee is nonrefundable and may be one way to avoid disputes.

Dealing With Disputes

Whether you’re a tenant or landlord, protecting your rights isn’t always straightforward. When it comes to returning a security deposit, for example, landlords and tenants may disagree about what counts as “normal wear and tear” and what counts as excessive property damage.

No matter why a dispute happens, it can be useful to have a Florida landlord-tenant dispute attorney by your side. A lawyer understands Florida laws (and any local laws, too) and can protect your interests. In some cases, an attorney can even help you avoid court or a long drawn-out process. To find out more, contact Flaxman Law Group at 866-352-9626 for a consultation with a Florida landlord-tenant dispute lawyer.

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