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How to Protect Your Security Deposit

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Landlord tenant disputes typically involve the handling of security deposits. From tenants contesting deductions to former landlords withholding security deposits in bad faith, the Miami attorneys at Graham Legal are experienced at representing both, plaintiffs and defendants in landlord tenant disputes. However, the best way for tenants to guard themselves against having their security deposits mishandled is to be well-informed on the laws surrounding security deposits in Florida and tenants’ rights.

What to do Upon Moving In

To ensure their security deposit will be returned at end of their tenancy, tenants should start protecting themselves before they move in. Florida landlords should provide a move-in inspection checklist and accompany tenants as they take note and pictures of any property damage present at move-in. If a checklist isn’t provided, tenants must make their own and give the landlord a copy.

In most jurisdictions, landlords cannot establish a tenant caused property damage, and therefore validate deposit deductions, without evidence of the property’s condition at move-in. With the checklist and photos, tenants can dispute property damage claims and deductions.

What to do Upon Moving Out

During their occupancy, tenants must try to follow the terms of the lease very closely. They should reside in the property for the specified time, consistently pay rent on time, avoid causing property damage, and provide the landlord a written notice within 30 days of their move-out date or as otherwise specified in their contract. Before returning the keys, tenants should participate in a final walk-through inspection (and take pictures) together with their landlord.

Bring the move-in checklist for reference and then ask landlord for an itemized list of things that need to be fixed before vacating. Tenants will be aware of the charges they are responsible for and could pay for the repairs out of pocket rather than through deductions on the security deposits. In fact, Florida landlords are required to provide advance written notice of any deductions.

Under state law, Florida landlords are required to return security deposits within 15 to 60 days (depending on whether deductions are contested) after their tenants vacated the property. If your landlord failed to return your deposit within this legal time limit or you believe their deductions are unfair, take the following actions.

    1. Send a letter (through certified mail and with a return receipt request) asking your landlord to return your deposit fully or recalculate their deductions and telling them of your willingness to sue.
    2. If there is no response within a week after receipt, consult with an attorney specializing in landlord tenant disputes to assist you in filing a lawsuit.

Whether you are the plaintiff or defendant in landlord tenant disputes, our Miami attorneys can represent you and defend your rights. Call Graham Legal today.

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