Many tenants (and landlords, for that matter) have some difficulty in interpreting Florida Statutes when it comes to the return of a tenant’s security deposit. Florida Statute §83.49(3)(a) provides guidance:
“Upon the vacating of the premises for termination of the lease, if the landlord does not intend to impose a claim on the security deposit, the landlord shall have 15 days to return the security deposit together with interest if otherwise required, or the landlord shall have 30 days to give the tenant written notice by certified mail to the tenant’s last known mailing address of his or her intention to impose a claim on the deposit and the reason for imposing the claim. The notice shall contain a statement in substantially the following form:
This is a notice of my intention to impose a claim for damages in the amount of upon your security deposit, due to. It is sent to you as required by §83.49(3), Florida Statutes. You are hereby notified that you must object in writing to this deduction from your security deposit within 15 days from the time you receive this notice or I will be authorized to deduct my claim from your security deposit. Your objection must be sent to (landlord’s address).
If the landlord fails to give the required notice within the 30-day period, he or she forfeits the right to impose a claim upon the security deposit and may not seek a setoff against the deposit but may file an action for damages after return of the deposit.”
This statute applies to residential tenancies. There are separate statutes for commercial tenancies.
The residential portion of Florida Statues chapter 83 also addresses different kinds of rent payments, including advance rent payments. This could have a bearing on the return of rent payments, if a tenant vacates before the end of the term paid for. In Florida, if a lessee pays rent in advance and the lease is properly terminated by the lessor, then the lessor is not required to return the advance rental payment. See Atlantis Estate Acquisitions, Inc. v. DePierro, 125 So.3d 889 (Fla. 4th DCA 2013).
The wording of Florida Statute §83.49(3)(a) seems counter-intuitive. If the landlord does not plan to keep any of your security deposit, they have 15 days to return your money. But, if they do plan on keeping your funds, they have 30 days to notify you of their intent to keep your funds. Importantly, if a landlord fails to send a notice as required by this statute (i.e. within the 30 days), the landlord forfeits the right to keep the deposit. However, that same landlord can bring a lawsuit against the tenant for damages.
As always, it is important to contact a lawyer regarding your rights and responsibilities as a landlord or tenant.