(This article only addresses how to handle security deposit charges on an early termination when an Early Termination Agreement is not available.)

You have received a notice from the tenant that they will be vacating the property early.  You have heard that if a tenant leaves early, you can keep their security deposit.  Is this correct?

There is no ‘automatic’ forfeiture of the security deposit in Florida.

First, when you receive the notice to vacate from the tenant, you should get the property back on the market for rent as quickly as possible.  The faster you get it re-rented, the less money you are out.  As well, once the property re-rents, the tenant’s financial obligation ends for owing you the monthly rent balance on the lease agreement.  This can be a win-win for all parties.

Once the tenant vacates, you will conduct a move out inspection. 

Example #1:   The property was left in rentable condition and there are no repairs or cleaning charges the tenant would be responsible for.  This would mean the only charge would be rent due for the balance of the lease term.  However, in  order to charge the balance of the rent, you must use the same efforts to re-rent the property as you did before.

Let’s say you find a new tenant who will take possession two weeks after the vacating.  You can then only charge two weeks of rent against the security deposit.  If you find a new tenant who will take possession one month later, then you can only charge one month rent, and so on.

After you have determined how much rent to charge, if there is any balance left over, that amount would be due back to the tenant as a security deposit refund.

It is important to remember to get any list of charges against the security deposit in the mail via certified mail return receipt no later than 30 calendar days from the date the tenant returned possession of the property.  If this means the property has not been re-rented before the 30 days is coming up, you can go ahead and charge the balance of the rent due on the lease.  Once the property re-rents you would amend the charges to reflect the reduced rent charges, and if there is a balance due to the vacated tenant, it must be sent to them.

Example #2:  During your move out inspection, you find the property needs to be cleaned, some trash or personal items need to be removed, and one bedroom needs repainting due to crayon markings.  You would get estimates from vendors on the needed repairs/clean up.  These charges would be listed as charges against the security deposit, as well as any rent due as explained in Example #1.  If there is a balance left after all charges are applied, the balance must go back to the vacated tenant.

I hope this helps clarify how the security deposit is handled when a tenant vacates early.

Happy Landlord-ing!!