Investors and rental property owners must become familiar with the Florida Landlord and Tenant Act, which is very clear about what can and cannot be done when making a claim against security deposits. It can be frustrating for property owners to want to charge tenants for what looks like clear damage to a property. However, if the law considers it wear and tear, you have to be very careful.
Flooring and CarpetFlooring or carpeting is often a major point of contention. A tenant could move in and have the carpet be in great shape, even if it’s three or four years old. When that tenant moves out and there are stains on the carpet, you’ll have to replace it and maybe it costs $1,000. You cannot claim $1,000 worth of damage from that tenant, however. You have to consider normal wear and tear and you also have to pro-rate the cost of the carpet. If that carpet’s life expectancy was five years and it’s three years old, you can only charge 40 percent of the cost of replacing the carpet.
Making Appropriate ClaimsLots of things can get you in trouble if you don’t make an appropriate claim. You do not want a dispute to become a legal issue. Because once you’re in front of a judge, you’re at risk for paying the damages to the tenant as well as legal fees if you lose. It is very important to make appropriate security deposit claims.
Normal Wear and TearHaving a tenant who moves out means there will be normal issues of wear and tear. For example, nail holes in the wall where tenants hung artwork is considered normal wear and tear. You cannot make a claim against the security deposit. However, if you find 40 nail holes in one wall, that is excessive and the security deposit can be used to make repairs on things that are excessive.
Budget for Wear and TearWe are not attorneys, and if you have specific questions about what you can and cannot do it’s important to talk to an attorney. We recommend that you budget for wear and tear. It’s also a god idea to include language in the lease about what a tenant can and cannot do to a property. When you do these things, you won’t have to battle over security deposits. Expect that you’ll have to have the carpets cleaned and the paint touched up. If you budget for these items, you won’t have unexpected costs when a tenant moves out.
There are other things to consider, but most important is this: make sure things don’t escalate. If you have questions about the owner responsibilities and what you can and cannot do when charging a security deposit, contact us at Dean & Dewitt Property Management.