Florida Security Deposit Return

This is a discussion on Florida Security Deposit Return within the Landlord vs Tenant Issues forum, part of the REAL ESTATE & PROPERTY LAW category; My situation is as follows: I am in Florida. I was a tenant at will, month to month, no lease. ...

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Old Dec 24th, 2009, 08:09 PM   #1
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Default Florida Security Deposit Return

My situation is as follows:

I am in Florida. I was a tenant at will, month to month, no lease.
I rented a room from my L.L., the L.L. also lived there.
I paid the 1st months rent and a security deposit [S.D.] equal to the 1st months rent.
I lived there a little over a year.
There are 2 owners named on the property records, one a parent, the other a son. I only dealt with and lived with the son. I never spoke/dealt with the sons parent/co-owner.

My L.L. decided in mid-month he didn't like me...wahhhh!, and verbally told me to leave by the end of the month. No written notice was given. I realize I could have stayed there longer, but it was a hostile environment. We both agreed it wouldn't work out and that I would move out at the end of the month.

I tried my best to find a place within the time frame given so I could leave the hostile environment I was in and found a place approx. 4 days before the end of the month. I made arrangements to move, rent a truck, and find someone to help me move, etc.

On the the last day of the month when I moved out I handed my roommate/L.L. a notice to vacate and a demand for return of my S.D.

The L.L. failed to sign for or pick up the certified notice to vacate, and S.D. return demand, it was returned to me unsigned, and unclaimed, and which is still unopened.
He said he would return the S.D., as long as I moved out by the end of the month. He has failed to do that. So much for manning up.

The L.L. typed up a response to my S.D. demand letter I gave him, but mailed it to me [un-certified] within the required time frame. Claiming his intent to withhold my S.D. for his alleged bogus damage claims to his apartment [not true], and therefore he is not returning the S.D. Then generally whined about how he claims I hurt his feelings in various ways.

Upon receipt of his denial of return of my S.D., I sent him another certified letter within the 15 days required by statute, objecting to his refusal to return same and made another demand for my S.D. return, as their was no valid reason to withhold it, other than the fact he decided he didn't like me and needs money to pay for his pot. He again failed to accept, and sign for this 2nd certified letter, which is still unopened to show to a Judge if the need arises.

Florida Statute 83.49 governs S.D. returns, notice requirements, etc. Specifically S.S. [3][a] of this statute which states verbatim 1st sentence: Notice must: "be sent by [certified mail] at tenants last known mailing address." If L.L. intends to impose a claim on the S.D. Parenthesis mine.

So based on the above scenario, even though I received a [un-certified] notice from the L.L. within the required time frame [30 days in Fl.] that he was withholding my S.D. for his bogus reasons.
Question 1: Do you guys/gals think a Court of law would rule in my favor for return of my S.D., based on the fact that although the L.L. sent his notice to me [un-certified]? Fla. Stat. 83.49 requires a certified letter.

The L.L. also co-mingled my S.D. with his own funds/bank account, he never gave me any notice of holding my S.D. in a separate account.

I also requested receipts and proof of any damages in my letters/certified letters he claims I made. He said yea sure...later? I never received any such receipts or proof of any damages, as there were none.
He was the slob, I was the clean guy, he damaged/disposed of the things he wants me to pay for.

I am on a fixed very limited monthly income, just enough to buy food/rent and the L.L. knows this, yet failed to return my S.D. knowing I would need it for my next rental.

Question 2: His parent whose name is listed as a co-owner on the property records and who most likely fronted the son/L.L. the money when he bought the property. Should I name the parent as a party to my complaint? Or would a Judge remove the parent from the complaint as a improper party to the suit? Again, I never dealt/spoke with the parent in any way, but the parents name is on the property records. The parent has money, and if I name the parent as a party, the parent may hire an attorney and if the Court removes her as a party, I may be liable for attorney fee's. Thoughts?

Any replies/opinions appreciated.Thanks and Merry Xmas to all.
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Old Dec 25th, 2009, 01:34 AM   #2
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Default Re: Florida Security Deposit Return

In your case, I first wish to inform you about who is a Landlord. Landlord is a person who being an owner of the premises enters into an agreement with the person who takes premises on rent. Therefore, if only the son has entered into agreement then he is the Landlord and he will be sued, but if in agreement parent of the son is mentioned then they will also be sued. Further, when you have given a Notice by certified mail then you have done your part of work. Notice of 15 days is required by you. Now the Landlord is required to give you in 30 days by certified mail his intention to forfeit security for damage done to property. As he has not given this so the Landlord cannot now claim the security deposit. Therefore, you can file suit. If the amount of security deposit is less you can then file in Small Claims Court where generally the cost is very less. You may be liable for costs if the parent is removed as improper party by the Judge and if the party has hired an attorney.

AFF
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Old Dec 25th, 2009, 11:32 AM   #3
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Default Re: Florida Security Deposit Return

Well put. The small claims limit in FL is $5000 so you can sue in small claims court. You may also be entitled to any penalties awarded to you by the judge if the owner/LL is deemed to have acted in bad faith. Unless the statement he sent you included itemized damages (what needed repaired and how much it cost to repair those), he could be judged to have acted in bad faith. IN some states these penalties are 2-3 x the deposit amount. Check FL law to see what their penalty is. Sue for all of it. If the judge does not believe the LL acted in bad faith, he can drop it down to just the security amount. Also, if he charged you for things like carpet replacement, he had to depreciate the value of the old carpet that was ruined, and not charge for replacement costs. File suit and update us later. Good luck.
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Old Dec 26th, 2009, 12:12 AM   #4
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Default Re: Florida Security Deposit Return

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Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
In your case, I first wish to inform you about who is a Landlord. Landlord is a person who being an owner of the premises enters into an agreement with the person who takes premises on rent. Therefore, if only the son has entered into agreement then he is the Landlord and he will be sued, but if in agreement parent of the son is mentioned then they will also be sued. Further, when you have given a Notice by certified mail then you have done your part of work. Notice of 15 days is required by you. Now the Landlord is required to give you in 30 days by certified mail his intention to forfeit security for damage done to property. As he has not given this so the Landlord cannot now claim the security deposit. Therefore, you can file suit. If the amount of security deposit is less you can then file in Small Claims Court where generally the cost is very less. You may be liable for costs if the parent is removed as improper party by the Judge and if the party has hired an attorney.

AFF
Thanks for your reply. As mentioned the L.L. did send a letter to me within the time frame allotted by statute stating he was withholding my S.D. for his bogus reasons, but it was un-certified.

I was thinking if we got into court and the L.L. states he sent his notice of withholding the S.D. within the time frame, and I said yea I got it, but it was un-certified. The Judge might go well you got the notice right? Yea?... Well whats the beef? It's a technicality, but could that be that a valid argument on the L.L. part?, or would the Judge require the L.L. to do it certified as the statue states? Thoughts?

The certified part is to document whether the party received the notice or not. If I admit I received it, would that extinguish the L.L. duty to send it certified per statute?

As stated previously my L.L. told me [verbally threatening me] in the middle of the month that he wanted me out by the end of the month, no written notice was given to me by the L.L. As far as I am concerned he canceled any oral contract we may have had, and I had no place to immediately go to, it took time to find a place which was 4 days before the end of the month and therefore I couldn't give him a 7 notice to vacate. I gave the L.L. my notice to vacate and my demand for return of my S.D. on the day I moved out. I followed that up with my certified notice of same within the 15 days required.

Fla. Stat. 83.49[5] states in part: "any tenant who vacates or abandons premises which are the subject of a tenancy from week to week, month to month, etc. etc., shall give at least 7 days written notice by certified mail or personal delivery to the L.L. prior to vacating the premises." Then states: "Failure to give such notice shall relieve the L.L. of the notice requirement of paragraph [3][a], but shall not waive any right the tenant may have to the S.D. or any part of it." Emphasis mine.

And the reason why I asked the above question about the L.L. un-certified S.D. withholding notice.
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Old Dec 26th, 2009, 03:15 PM   #5
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Default Re: Florida Security Deposit Return

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Well put. The small claims limit in FL is $5000 so you can sue in small claims court. You may also be entitled to any penalties awarded to you by the judge if the owner/LL is deemed to have acted in bad faith. Unless the statement he sent you included itemized damages (what needed repaired and how much it cost to repair those), he could be judged to have acted in bad faith. IN some states these penalties are 2-3 x the deposit amount. Check FL law to see what their penalty is. Sue for all of it. If the judge does not believe the LL acted in bad faith, he can drop it down to just the security amount. Also, if he charged you for things like carpet replacement, he had to depreciate the value of the old carpet that was ruined, and not charge for replacement costs. File suit and update us later. Good luck.
Thanks for the reply. Fla. Stat. 83.67 [6] allows for treble damages[3 X months rent], costs, atty. fees, for termination or interruption of utilities, and for other bad faith reasons. My L.L. did interrupt utilities to my room at one point, disconnected my cable, but I'm sure he will deny it in court. The circuit breaker panel was in his room. I had no access to it. Whether a Judge would grant treble damages I guess would be in the Judges discretion. But I intend to ask for treble damages in my complaint. Just normal wear and tear...no tears though. See what happens.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2010, 06:42 PM   #6
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Default Re: Florida Security Deposit Return

You were unlawfully evicted, so you need not worry about giving notice to vacate.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2010, 08:56 PM   #7
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Default Re: Florida Security Deposit Return

Poster #7 - What are you talking about??? The OP wasn't evicted. He was a m2m tenant who was asked to leave. A notice period of only 15 days is required in FL for m2m terminations. 30 days notice is not required in that state. Not sure what post you are reading.

The notice was given verbally. There is no record of being asked to leave. The OP should have waited for a written notice, or should have given his own notice to vacate at least 15 days prior to leaving. If I read his post correctly, he handed the LL his notice to vacate as he was moving out. That leaves him responsible for the next 15 days of rent for that notice period. That amount could have been deducted from the deposit if the LL claimed to have not given notice. Luckily the LL did not impose such a claim. In future, remember to give notice to vacate 15 days prior to move out to avoid this. At move out, you give only a forwarding address in writing.

The fact that you were not informed of the separate account info might have had merit if you had raised such at some point within the year or so that you lived there. Having ignored this for over a year, it may not matter now. This should have been raised soon after the 30 day requirement to notify you of the account had passed. I'm not sure a judge would allow you to raise this 11 months after you should have first noticed it.

FL does require certified delivery. But only a judge could say if that technicality would be enough to penalize a LL for it. Since you did receive it, it might not be enough. The statute says if he fails to give you notice of intent to withhold moneys from the deposit, he forfeits his right to it. It doesn't say if he doesn't send it certified... A judge would have to rule on this.

Subsection 5 (the 7 day notice) applies only to breaking a lease and is not applicable to your situation.

He sent a notice of intent to impose a claim on your deposit; you sent the required dispute letter back. The LL does not send proof of damages or receipts to the tenant. Those are shown upon demand in court. That is your next step. File a case in small claims court for the deposit. At the hearing, raise the 2 technicalities to see how a judge rules on those. If that does not work, then dispute his damage claims one by one at the hearing. Ask for before and after photos, receipts from the repairs, and proof that you caused the damages to the unit. If you have any photos, inspection reports, witnesses, etc, to prove the condition of the unit as you left, be sure to present them. In the suit ask for the entire deposit and any penalties to which you might be entitled. (Better to ask for all of it, and let the judge decide!) Best of luck.
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Old Jan 4th, 2010, 03:49 PM   #8
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Poster #7 - What are you talking about??? The OP wasn't evicted. He was a m2m tenant who was asked to leave. A notice period of only 15 days is required in FL for m2m terminations. 30 days notice is not required in that state. Not sure what post you are reading.

OP Reply: Thanks for your input. I would argue that the L.L. forcibly or constructively evicted me by angrily telling me he wanted me to leave, without written notice. I don't see that poster #7 indicated any time frames 15 or 30 days? The L.L. does have up to 30 days upon tenants vacating premises, to notify tenant of his intent to withhold tenants S.D. though.

The notice was given verbally. There is no record of being asked to leave. The OP should have waited for a written notice, or should have given his own notice to vacate at least 15 days prior to leaving. If I read his post correctly, he handed the LL his notice to vacate as he was moving out. That leaves him responsible for the next 15 days of rent for that notice period. That amount could have been deducted from the deposit if the LL claimed to have not given notice. Luckily the LL did not impose such a claim. In future, remember to give notice to vacate 15 days prior to move out to avoid this. At move out, you give only a forwarding address in writing.

OP Reply: There is a record that he wanted me out and his reasons in his letter he sent to me in reply to my notice for S.D. return. As I have stated it was not a good situation for me to be in. Sure I could have stayed and waited for him to notify me in writing or evict me through court process or we could beat the _____ out of each other every day, and risk arrest and jail. If I had my own apt./cooking facilities separate from his, then yes I could understand that thinking, but that was not the case in my situation...we shared the common areas, ie: kitchen, living room. Where did you get that I would be expected to forfeit 15 days rent for that notice period from? I see it as a constructive eviction on the L.L. part by threatening me with eviction and telling me he wanted me out...so I got out, he terminated the rental agreement, whether oral or written. And that to me, extinguishes my [the tenants] responsibility to give the L.L. any required notice per statute.

The fact that you were not informed of the separate account info might have had merit if you had raised such at some point within the year or so that you lived there. Having ignored this for over a year, it may not matter now. This should have been raised soon after the 30 day requirement to notify you of the account had passed. I'm not sure a judge would allow you to raise this 11 months after you should have first noticed it.

OP Reply: Is it the L.L. or the tenants responsibility to notify the tenant of holding tenants S.D. in L.L. bank account within 30 days per Fla. Statute? And whether interest should be paid to tenant on his S.D. money. I did a little more research on this issue and found that Fla. Stat. 83.49 [2][c], does require L.L. to notify tenants of where they are holding tenants S.D., interest, etc., but only if the L.L. has 5 or more units. So it appears the notice of holding tenants S.D. issue in my case does not apply, as the L.L. owns just the one unit. If anyone has any case law contrary to this please inform of such.

FL does require certified delivery. But only a judge could say if that technicality would be enough to penalize a LL for it. Since you did receive it, it might not be enough. The statute says if he fails to give you notice of intent to withhold moneys from the deposit, he forfeits his right to it. It doesn't say if he doesn't send it certified... A judge would have to rule on this.

OP Reply: The statute does say notice to be sent by certified mail. Does sound like semantics. The fact that he [L.L.] failed to sign for my certified letters [2], pretty much in my book, speaks for itself...his intent, to be a ****** bag or a ****** lord as one Kardashian put it.

Subsection 5 (the 7 day notice) applies only to breaking a lease and is not applicable to your situation.

OP Reply: I disagree with the 7 day notice only applies to breaking a lease part. Upon further reading of that part, the first sentence of S.S. 5 applies to leases, then goes into the 2nd [or] part which refers to tenants at will, week to week, mo. to mo., 1/4 to 1/4, and yr. to yr. Then states, tenant shall give at least 7 days written notice prior to vacating. Which upon 1st glance could easily be misconstrued as meaning 7 days is good enough for a tenant? But, it appears it could also be referring to the week to week tenant giving the minimum [at least] 7 days notice, which is what it looks like to me. Interesting how one can so innocently misconstrue a law and think he/she is right, but actually be wrong?

He sent a notice of intent to impose a claim on your deposit; you sent the required dispute letter back. The LL does not send proof of damages or receipts to the tenant. Those are shown upon demand in court. That is your next step. File a case in small claims court for the deposit. At the hearing, raise the 2 technicalities to see how a judge rules on those. If that does not work, then dispute his damage claims one by one at the hearing. Ask for before and after photos, receipts from the repairs, and proof that you caused the damages to the unit. If you have any photos, inspection reports, witnesses, etc, to prove the condition of the unit as you left, be sure to present them. In the suit ask for the entire deposit and any penalties to which you might be entitled. (Better to ask for all of it, and let the judge decide!) Best of luck.
OP Reply: Are you saying the L.L. is not required to show the tenant proof of any damage receipts he is claiming along with his Notice Of Withholding S.D., before we go to court? That seems contrary to the notion that litigants should make a good faith effort?, to resolve the issues out of court, before filing a complaint with the court...no? Like if I actually saw some legitimate receipts, I might consider [not filing] a complaint or negotiating. But I don't see any damages beyond normal wear and tear, so? Seems to me if I was a L.L. and had legitimate receipts of damages or services performed I would send copies to the tenant so he would not file a complaint against me, and then maybe be held liable for costs of tenants filing suit, witnesses, service of process, etc....think?

Thanks...and see what happens.
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Old Jan 5th, 2010, 03:30 PM   #9
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"Are you saying the L.L. is not required to show the tenant proof of any damage receipts he is claiming along with his Notice Of Withholding S.D., before we go to court?"

That is correct. No proof or receipts need to be presented to the tenant prior to a court hearing or arbitration. State law does not provide for this. You can ask for arbitration to decide this out of court if you wish. But FL state statutes did not make a provision for showing receipts. Some other states do have this provision (ie: In CA, a LL must attach receipts to the deposit statement if deductions exceed $125.)
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Old Jan 5th, 2010, 03:33 PM   #10
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Default Re: Florida Security Deposit Return

You can always request some proof of these damages prior to filing a court case. The LL may or may not agree to show them to you. Keep in mind that the prevailing party is usually awarded the cost of court fees, attorney fees, witnesses, process service, etc. from the losing party. If you file and the LL proves these damages in court, you pay all these fees. If you go to court and he cannot prove these damages, he pays.
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