Topic 7.3: Florida Residential Landlord and Tenant Act

Learning Objectives

After successfully completing this topic, you will be able to
• describe the major provisions of the Florida Residential Landlord and Tenant Act,
• list the requirements for a landlord who holds security deposits and advance rents, and
• state the time limits for notifying a tenant that the landlord intends to claim a portion of the security deposit.

The Florida Landlord and Tenant Act has three sections—nonresidential tenancies; residential tenancies; and self-service storage space. This topic deals with residential rental property.

Deposits and Advance Rents

With respect to security deposits and advance rents, the owner may
• hold the money in a separate, non-interest-bearing account, or
• hold the money in a separate interest-bearing account, and pay the tenant at least 75% of the average interest, or a straight 5%, or
• commingle the funds if he/she posts a surety bond with the clerk of the court for the total amount of security deposits and advance rents ( or $50,000, whichever is less), and pays the tenant 5% annual simple interest. This is an option available to an owner only, never to a broker.

The landlord must disclose to the tenant how the money is being held and the name of the bank holding the funds within 5 days of execution of a lease. The landlord must put the following disclosure in the notice:

Your lease requires payment of certain deposits. The landlord may transfer advance rents to the landlord’s account as they are due and without notice. When you move out, you must give the landlord your new address so that the landlord can send you notices regarding your deposit. The landlord must mail you notice, within 30 days after you move out, of the landlord’s intent to impose a claim against the deposit. If you do not reply to the landlord stating your objection to the claim within 15 days after receipt of the landlord’s notice, the landlord will collect the claim and must mail you the remaining deposit, if any. If the landlord fails to timely mail you notice, the landlord must return the deposit but may later file a lawsuit against you for damages. If you fail to timely object to a claim, the landlord may collect from the deposit, but you may later file a lawsuit claiming a refund. You should attempt to informally resolve any dispute before filing a lawsuit. Generally, the party in whose favor a judgment is rendered will be awarded costs and attorney fees payable by the losing party. This disclosure is basic. Please refer to part II of chapter 83, Florida statutes, to determine your legal rights and obligations.

The landlord has an obligation to maintain the premises, which must meet all community housing and health codes. Unless otherwise agreed in writing, the landlord of a single-family home or duplex must provide working smoke detection devices.

Unless otherwise agreed in writing, the landlord of dwelling units with three units or more must provide heat during winter plus running water and hot water, as well as garbage receptacles, garbage pickup, and exterminating services.

Vacating Premises

When a tenant vacates the premises, the landlord has 15 days to return the security deposit. If the landlord intends to impose a claim on the deposit, the landlord must notify tenant in writing within 30 days. If notification is not made in the 30-day period, the landlord forfeits the right to make a claim on the deposit. A sample notice for claim of the security deposit is shown below:

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 s. 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)  .

Attorney Fees

In any civil action brought to enforce the provisions of the rental agreement or this part, the prevailing party may recover reasonable attorney fees and court costs from the losing party. The statutory right to attorney fees may not be waived in a lease agreement.

Eviction Procedure

If tenant fails to pay after receiving a “3-day notice to pay rent”, the landlord must give written notice that he/she is demanding possession of the premises. The landlord must file a complaint for eviction in county court. The tenant is allowed five business days to file a reply.

After the landlord receives a final judgment against the tenant, the clerk issues a “writ of possession” allowing the sheriff to evict the tenant. Eviction begins 24 hours after the sheriff has served notice to the tenant.