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What Happens When My Former Landlord Keeps Part Of My Security Deposit?

Legal28

Many residential leases require the tenant to pay a security deposit to the landlord. Florida has specific laws governing such deposits. Under Section 83.49 of the Florida Statutes, the landlord must hold the deposit money in a separate bank account or post a bond with a Florida circuit court guaranteeing the landlord’s compliance with the law.

Once a lease terminates and the tenant vacates the premises, the landlord must return the security deposit within 15 days, unless the landlord intends to claim any portion of the security deposit. Such a claim must be made in writing within 30 days. This notice must be delivered by certified mail to the tenant’s last known mailing address. The tenant then has 15 days from the receipt of this notice to object to the landlord’s claims.

Florida Appeals Court: Landlord Failed to Comply with Notice Requirements

Failure by either party to strictly comply with the law can result in a forfeiture of rights. The Florida Second District Court of Appeal recently addressed such a case. In Wootton v. Iron Acquisitions, LLC, a couple rented a residential property from a landlord. A few months into the lease, however, problems arose and the parties mutually agreed to terminate their agreement.

After the lease terminated, the landlord sent a letter to the former tenants stating it planned to retain $960 from their original security deposit. The former tenants subsequently sued, alleging the landlord failed to comply with Section 83.49, and thus were entitled to a refund of their full security deposit.

Although a Circuit Court judge ruled in favor of the landlord, the Second District reversed. It explained the letter that the landlord sent to the former tenants did not comply with the requirements of Section 83.49. For one thing, the letter was not sent to the former tenants’ last-known mailing address. It also failed to notify the former tenants of their right to object within 15 days. Given the statutory requirements are mandatory, the Second District explained, the landlord was not in compliance.

The landlord argued that the parties’ settlement agreement terminating the lease early resolved any potential dispute over the security deposit. Not so, the Second District held. Indeed, the settlement explicitly stated the landlord would provide written notice under Section 83.49 if it intended to keep any portion of the security deposit. Nor could the landlord cite the fact the former tenants cashed the partial refund of their deposit as “full satisfaction” of the landlord’s statutory obligations.

Speak with a Florida Landlord-Tenant Lawyer Today

Many tenants are unaware of their legal rights when it comes to dealing with landlords. For instance, you might not have known about Florida laws governing the required notice in such cases. That is why if you do get into a dispute with a current or former landlord, it is best to seek out legal advice. If you need to speak with a qualified Brandenton landlord-tenant lawyer, contact Moran, Sanchy & Associates today to speak with a member of our team.

Sources:

m.flsenate.gov/Statutes/83.49

2dca.org/content/download/836584/opinion/212229_DC13_05042022_082935_i.pdf