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Should I file a civil theft claim in small claims? How much money am I entitled to if I file civil theft? Better way?

Delray Beach, FL |

My landlord (lives out of state) didn't notify me of damages or return my security deposit within 30 days. An e-mail from the property manager stated I knew I wouldn't be getting my full security deposit back was sent over 30 days after we did a walk through at the end of the lease. In a following e-mail she said I would be getting a check minus the damages from the LL. I received a check from my LL by certified mail (50 days after end of lease) for $300 along with a sticky note from the LL stating that the PM said there were $400 worth of damages. The note did not specify any damages. This also assumes my security deposit was $700 when I paid $740. I know I'm entitled to my full deposit but I'm not sure of the best way to go about getting the funds or if I'm entitled to treble damages.

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Attorney answers 2


Civil theft is difficult to prove, and if you file a false claim for civil theft, you my be subject to paying the other side's attorney's fees. Based on what you have set forth above, I would suggest you exhaust any remedies under the landlord-tenant statutes before considering the application of novel alternative theories of law to something already clearly covered by an existing statute.

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I agree with Ms. Morcroft--civil theft is difficult to win, and especially when the claim arises from a contractual obligation, or a failure to comply with a statutory requirement.

File your civil suit in small claims court. If the landlord failed to timely make a claim on the security deposit, they have waived the right to do so. You should consider having an attorney to represent you and if you win you will have attorney's fees assessed against the landlord.

From what I can see, the notice was untimely, and Florida law requires it be sent by certified mail, so an email is not sufficient. The landlord's notice must comply with the form set forth in Section 83.49 Florida statutes and if it doesn't, such as telling you you had 15 days to object, the notice is deficient. And, you are correct that the landlord is supposed to spell out the damages and costs claimed to repair.

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