If you’re managing your property well and you have open and transparent communication with your tenants, disputes should be rare. However, if there’s going to be some disagreement, it will likely be regarding the security deposit. Often, tenants believe they should get all of the deposit back no matter how the property looks when they move out. And, landlords will want to charge the deposit for everything they possibly can in order to keep turnover costs low.
You need to understand the legal requirements of returning a security deposit, and if you aren’t sure about something – consult a professional property manager. Security deposit mistakes can be expensive.
Security Deposit Timelines and Deadlines
When a move-out inspection reveals that there isn’t any damage and a tenant’s account is current, you’ll want to return their full deposit, plus any interest that it earned. You have 15 days to do that. When you’re issuing a full return, send it to their forwarding address within 15 days of move-out.
If you plan to withhold money from the tenant’s security deposit, you have 30 days from the tenant’s move-out to notify them in writing that you plan to use some or all of the security deposit funds. Send the notice via certified mail with a list of the reasons you’ll be keeping part of the deposit. The tenants then have 15 days to dispute the charges in writing. You’ll need to return any portion of the security deposit within 30 days of your notice.
Reasons to Keep Part of the Deposit
There are not a lot of acceptable reasons for keeping the tenant’s security deposit in Florida. If there is documented damage to the property, you can use the deposit to pay for it. If the tenant owes back rent or late fees, you can keep the deposit to cover those charges. Any other violations of the lease agreement that have resulted in expenses can also be covered by the security deposit. So, if your lease prohibited pets and there is evidence that an animal scratched your walls or dug up your garden, you can use the security deposit to pay for that.
How to Handle a Dispute
Be prepared for tenants who may dispute what you’re charging. Make sure that you take detailed pictures and notes before the tenants move in and after the tenants move out so you can demonstrate how the condition of the home has changed. If there’s clear evidence of abuse, misuse, or neglect and you have the photos to back that up, your tenants probably won’t take it any further. But, if you don’t have reliable documentation or your interpretation of the inspection reports is iffy, the tenants may have a case against you. Don’t take chances with the security deposit; only keep it for things you can prove.
We work with landlords on security deposit matters all the time. If you have any questions about this or anything pertaining to Orlando property management, we’d be happy to talk to you. Contact us at Park Avenue Property Management.