In order to impose a claim against a tenant’s security deposit a landlord must send a statutory notice to the tenant by certified mail within 30 days.
Florida Statutes Chapter 83.49 govern the rights and duties of landlord and tenant regarding the security deposit [ to view Florida Statutes online go to http://www.flsenate.gov/Statutes/index.cfm ]. One of the purposed of this statutes is to reduce the amount of lawsuits over security deposits, so the legislature established a series of hurdles each party must cross in order to preserve their rights. Because the rules are meant to deny litigants the key to the court house door, they are strictly enforced.
The responsibilities of the landlord and the tenant are determined by whether the tenant vacates:
- at the end of a written lease.
- before the end of a written lease
- at the end of an oral lease
- before the end of an oral lease.
1. Tenant vacates and the end of a written lease.
In order to impose a claim against the security deposit the landlord must send a notice of intent to impose a claim to the tenant. The notice must:
- be sent to the tenants by certified mail
- be sent within 30 days after the tenants vacated the leased premises
- state the amount of the deposit being claimed by the landlord
- specify the reasons for the claim
- inform the tenants that the tenants must assert any objections to the claim within 15 days of receipt of the notice or the tenants will forfeit their right to object.
- Provide the landlord address the tenants should send their objection to.
If the landlord fails to send the notice within the 30 days, or if the landlord sends a defective notice, the landlord forfeits his right to impose a claim against the security deposit. This is regardless of the amount of damage done by the tenants. The landlord may, however, still sue the tenant for damages after returning the entire security deposit.
The notice is to be sent to the tenants last know address. If the tenant did not provide a forwarding address, the landlord should send the notice to the leased premises. A court has ruled that a landlord who did not the tenant’s new address, but did know the tenant’s attorney’s address, was not required to send the notice to the attorney, but was allowed to send the notice to the leased premises [Newman v. Gray 4 Fla Law Weekly Supp 271 (Dade County 1996)].
Once the landlord has send a proper notice of intent to impose claim, the burden shifts to the tenant to send an objection by certified mail within 15 days of receiving the notice. If the tenant fails to do so, the tenant absolutely waives any right to object to the landlord’s claim and the landlord must remit that amount the landlord did not claim within 30 days of the date the landlord sent the original notice of intent to impose claim.
2. Tenant vacates before the end of a written lease or
3. at the end of an oral lease or
4. before the end of an oral lease:
The landlord does not have to send a notice of intent to impose claim on the security deposit unless the tenant first sends the landlord a notice. The tenant’s notice must
- be sent seven days before the tenant vacates the leased premises
- be sent by certified mail or hand delivered
- provide a forwarding address for the landlord
If the tenant does not send this notice, the landlord does not have to send a notice. The tenant’s failure to send the notice does not affect the parties’ rights to the deposit money.
Another way of vacating before the end of the lease is when the landlord evicts the tenant. In this case, the landlord should not have to send a notice, but one court ruled that the landlord did have to [Speigner v. Holland 1 Fla Law Weekly Supp 529a (Brevard County 1993)]. I suggest that you send a notice anyway so it is not an issue. To get a “Notice of Intent to Impose Claim on Security Deposit” go to FloridaREI.com, “landlord forms page, “Claim on Security Deposit.”
Also note that when a lease is renewed, any claim on the security from the original lease term must be made within 30 days as if the tenant had moved out. The security deposit “rolled over” into the new lease is considered a new security deposit.