How does tenant get security deposit returned?


How does tenant get security deposit returned?

Attorney Tom Olsen: The tenant says that they have moved out of their apartment and the landlord is trying to charge them for what they consider to be unreasonable charges. They’re more than just simply wear and tear and they want to know what they can do about a tenant can get their security deposit back. 

Attorney Rob Solomon: The security deposits are governed by Florida Statute 83.49, which is a very explicit set of procedural rules about who does what concerning security deposits. When we talk about security deposits, in the first instance we have to talk a little drily about the procedure. So, when you’re a tenant and you move out, you want to make sure you leave a forwarding address, because these rules get all mucked up and don’t work very well unless you first leave a forwarding address. 

You’re going to want to do that and, at that point, it is the responsibility of the landlord to take the first step regarding your security deposit, meaning that within 15 days of when you depart and you’ve given notice as to where you’re going, they have to give you your money back or within 30 days they have to give you notification by certified mail that they’re not giving some or all of your security deposit back and the reasons for that. If the landlord fails to explicitly follow that law, to write that certified letter, just like it’s written in the statute itself, send it certified within the time limits, the landlord waives his right to keep the security deposit. 

It’s pretty important to know. So, if you’re a tenant, your job really isn’t to be going, “Oh, why aren’t you giving it back to me? Give it back to me, give it back to me”. No, your job is once you have given them an address, you should be content to wait and see what happens, because if time runs out on this clock you’re entitled to all of your security deposit. Conversely, once you get this letter, if you haven’t gotten your security deposit back, you only have 15 days to object to it and if you don’t, guess what? You waive your right to the security deposit. You’ve got to follow these procedural things very carefully and usually this debate turns, substantively, on the issue of wear and tear, normal and reasonable wear and tear. 

Landlords are always trying to charge tenants for everything, got to clean the carpet, got to repaint the place, and some of that stuff is appropriate and some of it isn’t. If you’re living in a place for five years and at the end of five years the place needs to be painted again because it got a little bit dirty, that’s normal wear and tear, repainting it is not something that tenant should have to pay. On the other hand, if you put your cigarettes out on the rug and the rug is a total mess, maybe you had an animal or something and you ruined the rug and they have to replace the rug, that’s not normal wear and tear that would need to be replaced. So, that’s usually what security deposit issues turn on. 

Attorney Tom Olsen: And so, if the landlord and tenant cannot work it out, they just have a real dispute and neither one of them is going to bend on it, then the only way to resolve that is to go to small claims court. 

Attorney Rob Solomon: That’s right. So, if everybody follows this law, and the landlord does his responsibility within the 30 days, and the tenant, conversely, files an objection within 15 days, we have reached a stalemate. That means the money is supposed to stay put and somebody needs to bring this matter to small claims court, typically. Small claims court is for disputes under $5,000, you can imagine there aren’t many security deposits greater than that.