Florida - End of lease & using security deposit

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Old Feb 2nd, 2009, 10:28 AM   #1
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Default Florida - End of lease & using security deposit

We are ending a month-to month lease, which per the terms of the lease is to include us paying for February. We are out of the premises, and have had the place cleaned and the eight screw holes we made for pictures & light fixtures patched. I asked our landlord to come by and take a look at the place so he could tell me if there is anything else that needs to be done, and if not so I could give him the keys. He said he would, but then said he would come the next day. Additionally, he said that he and his wife have a checklist which they go over and then send the tenant later, and so I do not have to be there. When I called him later to ask him to leave a copy of what needed to be done when he looked it over since the cleaning was not quite finished, he said that he might not be able to make it out till the next day after that, and that he would fax me what needed to be done still.

When I previously asked him to take the security deposit monies as last month's rent, he stated that he is not lawfully allowed to do that as security deposit is not for rent. I haven't had any real issues with him, I guess maybe I'm just paranoid, but I don't feel like having my money held up for as long as a month and a half to two months. Or worse, he keeping some of the security deposit for unsound reasons.

We have cleaned the house and returned it to the state it was AFTER we cleaned it before moving in (details below). It is actually already smelling like new carpet in there again. There is no damage to anything save perhaps the vinyl blinds browning & slightly melting in one of the bedrooms, which might be due to my car reflecting sunlight on them.

My questions are: What can he do to us if we choose to not pay the last month's rent and let him take it out of the deposit? Is there any legal reason this is a problem in Florida? Is there any special way I should go about notifying him that he is to do this? Is there anything I can do to ensure that he cannot take monies out of our deposit unreasonably?

Thank you for any help! Below is (too much?) background information.

We picked this unit over others due to price, city water versus well water, "new" carpet, and side-by-side two car driveway as opposed to back-to-back. He also said the lease was breakable if we built a house (never happened, became much cheaper to buy a house, which we did).

To give some insight as to why there should be no reason for any of our security deposit to be withheld:
It took a week and a half for four people to clean the two-bedroom, one bath duplex when we took possession of it. This included many full days on all our parts since our in-laws were here on vacation and devoted much of their time to this, and it was over christmas/newyear's holidays so both my wife and I had four days of vacation to devote to it. The cupboards were filthy, greasy spills, dead roaches, and roach killer applied everywhere - even under paint. Wire racks in closets had a caked on sticky yellow film. Bathroom shower grout was quite moldy, and a good amount of the grout was missing, including around the drain. The blinds had caked on dust, and the kitchen blind additionally had globs of grease and dirt. The vertical blind for the sliding glass doors is missing almost half its panels, and does not function other than sliding it open or closed. The bathroom paint was not finished. The bathroom had a three-panel medicine cabinet with a broken center mirror. There were spider webs everywhere. The patio was even worse when it comes to spiders. The a/c filter was filthy. The kitchen hood filter was full of grease as well as the hood. The hood was not properly venting out. The refrigerator looked like it was from the seventies or early eighties, had broken shelves, and was not holding a proper temperature. There was tons of garbage behind the washer & dryer, including packs of pictures, toys, dirt, etc. Behind the fridge & stove wasn't much better. The area between the dishwasher & cabinets/floor was dusty & had many dead roaches. The bi-fold doors had caked on dirt and they, as well as some of the walls, had writing on them in what seemed like permanent marker.

We repaired all things which could be cleaned/patched/painted, replaced the kitchen blind, added a rolling blind to the lanai door (as he said there was enough privacy with the privacy fence, and he didn't care about blinds), and replaced the mirrored vanity with a new bathroom mirror to fit the width of the vanity. We replaced the refrigerator with a used one, for which he agreed to pay half of. We re-grouted the missing grout in the shower with matching grout. We replaced the toilet seat. We had an instance where the A/C pan was filling and overflowing, so I called him over and I cleaned out the clog in the attic while he told me what to do. That day I mentioned to him that the doorbell doesn't work, and he said that it's probably a wire - no offer to fix (although no big deal to me). He made a hole in the ceiling to let out the water that had accumulated above the ceiling, and came back to patch it up later. We asked him for some paint to patch up the old holes for things we replaced (and to finish the bathroom), as well as the patch he made in the ceiling, so we were able to do that. When it looked like we might be there longer than a year, I asked him about the screens in the patio - which were broken - and having heard from our neighbor that he doesn't care about fixing things and that he wouldn't fix their screen (they have none), I asked him if he could supply the screen and I would put it up. He said sure, I'll get a roll out of the attic and bring it to you next lawn cutting day. He did, but I never got around to anything in the back yard as we then started to look for a house to buy. The new roll is in the unit untouched. The privacy fence had a broken panel, which I had asked him about fixing, he said that it wasn't that big a deal. I later, while fixing a short fence that is between our fence and the other side of the duplex, found the broken part of the panel, so I put it back up. He cuts the main grass, but doesn't do anything with the small back yard, or areas by the house. I have pulled weeds and paid a local guy to clean up that area. I've also cut back the shrubs because they would grow branches out to the walkway.

Additionally, there were three broken windows which in the lease he said would be repaired before our move-in date. They were never repaired despite my calling him and reminding him, as well as giving him the name of a neighborhood handyman who would be willing to do the work. There are also no screens on the bedroom windows. Only one of the blinds had a rod to twist them open, and they were all damaged or broken in one way or another.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2009, 12:39 PM   #2
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Default Re: Florida - End of lease & using security deposit

Awfully long post. Many people won't read it all because it is too long. Hope my reply isn't that long.

The bottom line is that you can never use the security deposit for rent. Ever. All state laws says this money is to secure the tenant's performance in the rental. He can only use it if you don't perform (don't take care of the place, cause damage, don't follow your lease terms, etc.). In FL, this money is kept in a seperate account so he can't touch it until you move out. You may not use it for February's rent so forget that. Pay the rent for February if you owe it. If you fail to pay, he can serve a 3 day Pay or Quit to the unit and then file for eviction. Once the case is filed, it will show up on your court records for all to see for years to come. You will be denied housing because of this. If you are breaking your lease to move out without an agreement in writing, expect to get a suit filed against you for any rent owed until the lease ends. This will damage your credit for at least 10 years.

Your deposit should be returned to you between 15 and 60 days depending on if there are deductions and you dispute them. That is state law and you must abide by it. We would all like to have money refunded to us promptly, but the law gives him that amount of time.

In one section of your post, you state you had a month to month agreement and in another you say you had a lease that he was willing to let you out of. Which is it? It does matter. Unless you got it in WRITING that he would let you out of the lease, you have no agreement to break a lease. In FL, you can be held accountable for all monies and rent until the end of the lease. The LL does not have to try and re-rent the unit. If a month to month, you merely have to give 15 days notice that you are vacating and pay for those days, not for a month.

You ask how to protect yourself from unfounded charges. Good question. First, did you get written permission to do all the work you did to the unit? (Most leases say you need the written authorization before you can paint or make repairs.) If not, I hope you have a move in inspection report and hopefully, dated photos from when you moved in to show the condition of the unit when you took possession. Unfortunately, the judge may not believe statements from you or your relatives about the condition of the unit without proof. Can you come up with some impartial (not family) statements? Moving guy, pizza delivery man, neighbor, someone else who may have seen the condition of the place when you moved in? Always have an inspection and take photos when you move in. If the LL isn't available or willing to do the move in or out inspection with you, do it yourself. Document the condition of everything, taked dated photographs to show how clean it is, and get a key receipt (or have a witness) to state when you returned the keys. As long as you have the keys, you have access to the unit and rent will continue to accrue. Save receipts from cleaning companies (carpet cleaners, house cleaners, etc.) and for supplies you used to clean it so you can show a judge you did what was needed, in case you have to go to court.

When you get the itemized statement back of what was deducted from your deposit, go over it all. If you dispute any charges, send a challenge letter to the LL by certified mail, rrr, and keep a copy. In that letter, you should dispute each charge line by line and explain why you should not be charged for that item, or why the charge is not correct for that item. Show justification of a different amount if the item is correct but the price is not. (IE- if you are charged for a broken light fixture, get a printout of how much that fixture would cost to replace from a hardware store.) Give him 10 - 14 days to respond. If he doesn't or the two of you cannot come to an agreement, sue him in small claims court. Do not cash a partial refund check s that may signify that you agree with his accounting.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2009, 08:56 AM   #3
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Default Re: Florida - End of lease & using security deposit

You should sue in small claims not deduct from last months rent. (He can take legal action if he wishes for payment failure.)

If you are correct you will win.
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Old Jan 4th, 2011, 06:10 AM   #4
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Default Re: Florida - End of lease & using security deposit

[QUOTE=Unregistered;74782]Awfully long post. Many people won't read it all because it is too long. Hope my reply isn't that long.

Some of which was stated is not entirely accurate.
1. The unit must be deemed as good as it was when it was moved in, a few photos will establish if that is true or not.
2. If the unit is not kept up as provided by Law, for example the AC is not functional, or the heat does not work correctly, mold, or bug infestations to name a few, gives you legal recouse to break the lease period.
3. most judges do not favor landlords in a court of law, as long as you cover yourself with photos backed up with peoples statements you will win easily.
this is just some of the things stated that are not completely black and white as the posted stated.
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Old Jan 4th, 2011, 02:47 PM   #5
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Default Re: Florida - End of lease & using security deposit

Helpful info--thanks!
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