When you sign a lease for an apartment, your landlord will probably require you to pay a security deposit. Later, when your lease ends and you vacate the apartment, you'll want your security deposit back as soon as possible.
How much a landlord may collect from you as a security deposit varies across the United States. In addition, states have their own laws that regulate how long a landlord may take to return your deposit, whether you're owed interest, the consequences for a landlord who fails to follow the law, and more.
Q: Why would a Florida landlord collect a security deposit from tenants?
A: Florida landlords aren't required to collect a security deposit from tenants. But because it's in a landlord's best interest to do so, it has become common practice. When a landlord collects a security deposit, it's a way of helping to ensure that the tenant will keep the apartment in good shape, pay the rent, and not suddenly break the lease and disappear, which could mean the tenant doesn't get the deposit returned.
Q: What's the most a Florida landlord can get from a tenant as a security deposit?
A: Florida's statutes impose no limit on the amount a landlord can get from a tenant as a security deposit.
Q: How long does a Florida landlord have to return a tenant's security deposit?
A: A Florida landlord has up to 15 days after the end of a tenancy to return the security deposit. If, however, the landlord can't return at least some of the deposit within the 15-day period, the landlord has up to 30 days to send a written explanation to the tenant, then has an additional 30 days to return the deposit (or the part owed) to the tenant.
Q: May a Florida landlord legally keep some or all of a tenant's security deposit?
A: Yes. A landlord may apply some or all of a tenant's security deposit to cover back rent and utility charges, as well as damages caused by the tenant. If a landlord is returning any amount less than the full security deposit, the landlord has up to 30 days to send written notice to the tenant, in which the deductions are itemized, as outlined above.
Q: How can a tenant ensure she gets her security deposit from a Florida landlord?
A: The tenant should give the landlord a forwarding address for the return of the security deposit and/or an itemized accounting. If a tenant doesn't take this step, the Florida landlord must mail the deposit and/or accounting to the tenant's last known address, which could be the tenant's recently vacated apartment, or personally deliver the deposit and/or accounting to the tenant. Florida law makes it clear that tenants who don't provide a forwarding address don't forfeit their right to the return of their deposit.
Q: What happens if a Florida landlord doesn't return the deposit on time?
A: If a landlord doesn't send the security deposit or itemized accounting within the 30-day period, the landlord may be liable to pay the tenant the amount of the original security deposit, as well as court and attorney's fees.
Q: Is a Florida landlord required to keep security deposits in separate accounts?
A: Florida does require landlords to keep a tenant's security deposit in a separate account but it needn't earn interest during the tenancy. If a landlord chooses to keep a tenant's deposit in an interest-bearing account, then the landlord must pay the tenant either 5% interest or 75% of the actual interest rate, as the landlord prefers (unless the tenant wrongfully ends her lease). Alternatively, the landlord may post a surety bond.