What’s a Security Deposit and How Does It Get Used?


You’ve probably heard horror stories about security deposits when you apply for a rental property. You save up a gazillion dollars to cover the first month’s rent and the deposit… and then never see that money again, right? Hopefully wrong! Before we get into specifics, let’s cover what a security deposit is and how it gets used.

Defining Security Deposits

Each state has different rules, but in Florida, a property owner can ask for a security deposit. The landlord holds this money to cover damages the tenant causes to the property or if they break their lease. Florida doesn’t limit how much the landlord or their property management company can hold, but it usually equals one month’s rent.

Where Does the Money Go?

Your landlord has to keep this money in a separate, non-interest-bearing account. They can’t spend it, use it for something else, or combine it with other monies. It has to sit on its own, just waiting to return to you when you leave the property in pristine condition.

How Can I Get the Deposit Back? 

Of course, you’ll leave the property in excellent condition. So, naturally, you should look for that check a few weeks after you move out. Once you move out, the landlord must return your deposit within 15 days if they don’t intend to submit a claim against it. 

Why Would My Landlord Keep My Deposit?

Stuff happens. It just does. If you broke the rental agreement (i.e., damaged something), they have 30 days to give you written notice. 

The landlord can’t keep your deposit if you leave a few crumbs in the fridge, but they can (and will) use the deposit for a professional cleaning if necessary. They can also keep some or all of it if they find broken tiles, broken windows, cracked countertops, etc. They can also keep your deposit for unpaid utilities (if you were responsible for them) or for unpaid rent. 

How Will I Know If My Landlord Will Keep My Deposit?

Your landlord must send a notice via certified mail stating that they plan to claim some or all of your deposit.

The certified letter must include specific language: “This is a notice of my intention to impose a claim for damages in the amount of [$$] upon your security deposit, due to [specific reason]. 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].” 

What Happens After 30 Days?

If the landlord fails to give the required notice within the 30-day period, they forfeit the right to impose a claim upon the security deposit. They can no longer offset any costs from the security deposit. But they could file an action for damages after returning your security deposit.

What if I Move Out Early? 

Florida law says you have to give your landlord a week’s notice if you plan to move out early and you’re liable for a two-month penalty. 

You must also leave your forwarding address. This entitles you to receive your security deposit back. However, it does not release you from any additional rent owed via the lease agreement. In this case, the landlord can keep the deposit to cover those costs and the remainder of the rent owed for the lease. 

What if My Landlord Sells My Rental Property? 

This happens a lot, and can get stressful for renters. The law says the security deposit should transfer to the new building owner. Once transferred, the new owner will return your deposit when you move out and leave the property in terrific shape.

Orlando property managers must follow the letter of the law the same as a landlord. The Realty Medics also have additional benefits for qualified renters, like the no security deposit program. Skip the whole security deposit dance when you qualify. If you have other questions about your lease from The Realty Medics or anywhere else, contact us today! Call us at 321-947-7653 or complete our online form.