If a landlord intends on making a claim on part or all of a tenant's security deposit, the landlord then has 30 days after the tenant vacates to impose a claim. The claim must be made in writing and sent via certified mail to the last known address or a forwarding one if known. The notice MUST state that the landlord intends to impose a claim, the amount being claimed against the deposit, and the reasons for imposing the claim. Furthermore, the notice must have the proper language in it to be valid. The language can be found by going to www.leg.state.fl.us and then going to the statute section. From there, go to section 83.49 and the language is shown in subsection 3(a).
Failure to Give 30-Day Notice
If a landlord fails to give the proper notice as mentioned in Step 1 above, the landlord forfeits their right to impose a claim upon the security deposit and must return all the funds to the tenant. If a landlord had valid claims but failed to send the proper notice within the 30-day time period, the landlord should file a small claims action against the tenant for the damages it would have deducted from the deposit. Therefore, failure to provide proper notice in the time period provided will result in the landlord having to pay filing and service of process fees (plus attorneys' fees if an attorney is hired) to go after all or part of the deposit funds.
Tenant Surrender or Abandonment
If a tenant surrenders or abandons their tenancy prior to the expiration of the lease term, Florida Statute 83.49(5) requires that a tenant give the landlord written notice containing the new address where the tenant is moving to via hand delivery or certified mail at least 7 days prior to the tenant leaving. If the tenant fails to do this, the landlord is no longer bound by the 30-day notice requirement mentioned in Step 1. The landlord still can't just keep the deposit. The proper notice must still go out to the tenant, but the 30-day time period after a tenant vacates is no longer in effect.
Tenant's Dispute to the Deduction of the Security Deposit Funds
Pursuant to Florida Statute 83.49(3)(b), after a tenant receives a notice of claim from the landlord, the tenant only has 15 days to object in writing back to the landlord. If the tenant fails to object within this time period, the landlord may deduct the amount of the claim from the deposit and return the remainder of the funds, if any, within 30 days. The objection made by the tenant should be sent via certified mail or through some other delivery method in which to prove the date of when the objection was sent. If an objection is properly made by the tenant, the landlord should try to work it out with the tenant first. If an agreement can't be reached, the landlord should then file suit to adjudicate their right to all or part of the deposit funds. Pursuant to Florida Statute 83.49(3)(c), the prevailing party is entitled to reimbursement of court costs and reasonable attorney's fees.
Additional resources provided by the author
Florida Chapter 83: Online Sunshine (www.leg.state.fl.us)
Case: Durene v. Alcime, 448 So.2d 1208 (Fla. 3d DCA 1984)