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 as shown below

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.

Notice of security deposit handling by landlord

Property Management

Some property managers work for an owner-developer. Provided that the manager rents units only for the employer, they do not need a real estate license.

Persons who offer property management services to more than one owner must have a real estate license. The licensed property manager must abide by Chapter 475 and the Rules of the FREC with respect to holding security deposits in the broker’s escrow account. Most property managers will have separate escrow accounts for real estate sales deposits, for rental security deposits, and for rental operating funds, but this is not required by FREC rules.

Sales associates may not manage properties for an owner; they must work under the direction of their registered broker.

Renting to Active Military Service Members

If an active military service member applies for a rental, the landlord must notify the service member in writing within seven days that the application was either approved or denied. If the application was denied, the landlord must give the reason for the denial.

If the landlord does not meet the time requirements, the landlord must lease the rental unit to the service member.

Selling Tenant-Occupied Homes

Upon the sale of a rental property from one owner to another, or upon a change in the rental agents, the tenant’s security deposits and advance rents (together with any earned interest) must be transferred to the new owner or agent, with an accurate accounting showing the amounts to be credited to each tenant account.

When the funds and records are received by the new owner or agent, the owner or agent is free from the obligation to hold such moneys on behalf of the tenant. There is a rebuttable presumption that any new owner or agent received the security deposit from the previous owner or agent; however, this presumption is limited to 1 month’s rent.

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Landlord’s Obligation to Maintain Premises

The landlord has an obligation to maintain the premises in a manner that meets 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.

Landlord’s Access to Premises

A landlord has the right to enter the rental premises from time to time to

  • inspect the premises,
  • make necessary or agreed-upon repairs or improvements,
  • supply agreed-upon services, or
  • show the premises to prospective tenants or buyers.

The landlord may enter the dwelling unit at any time for the protection or preservation of the premises. The landlord may enter the dwelling unit upon reasonable notice to the tenant and at a reasonable time for the purpose of repair of the premises. “Reasonable notice” for the purpose of repair is notice given at least 24 hours prior to the entry, and reasonable time for the purpose of repair shall be between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.

The landlord may enter the dwelling unit when necessary for the further purposes under any of the following circumstances

  • with the consent of the tenant,
  • in case of emergency,
  • when the tenant unreasonably withholds consent, or
  • if the tenant is absent from the premises for a period equal to one-half the time for periodic rental payments. if the rent is current and the tenant notifies the landlord of an intended absence, then the landlord may enter only with the consent of the tenant or for the protection or preservation of the premises.

The landlord shall not abuse the right of access nor use it to harass the tenant.

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 the 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 Section 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).

Notice for Claim of Security Deposit

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Conflicting demands for the rental security deposit

If both a tenant and a landlord claim deposit money, the Florida Landlord and Tenant Act supersedes the conflicting demands requirements of Chapter 475. Licensed real estate brokers may disburse security deposits and deposit money as they deem appropriate.

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.

Termination of rental agreements by the tenant

If a landlord fails to maintain the premises or does not comply with the terms of the lease agreement, and the tenant wants to terminate the agreement, the tenant must give written notice to the landlord detailing the deficiencies and stating the intent to terminate the lease. If the landlord fails to correct the deficiencies within seven days, the tenant may terminate the lease.

If the tenant wants to stay in the property, rent may be abated

  • If the property is habitable, the tenant may petition the court to reduce the rent as compensation for the lack of compliance, or
  • If the property is not habitable, the tenant may petition the court to stop all rental payments until the property is once again habitable.

Termination of rental agreements by the landlord

If a tenant fails to pay rent when due and the default continues for three business days after delivery of written demand by the landlord, the landlord may terminate the rental agreement. 

In cases other than a tenant’s failure to pay rent, a landlord may give notice to the tenant to correct the noncompliance within seven days. If the noncompliance is not corrected within seven days, the landlord may terminate the lease.

If the noncompliance is egregious, the landlord may give the tenant a written notice detailing the substantial noncompliance and terminate the lease, requiring the tenant to vacate the premises. Examples of egregious noncompliance include destruction, damage, or unreasonable disturbance.

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.