A Property Manager’s Security Deposit Claim Procedure

A Property Manager's Security Deposit Claim Procedure
tenant damage

Navigating the complexities of security deposit claims is a vital responsibility for property managers, ensuring both legal compliance and fair treatment of tenants. In this article, we’ll explore the detailed procedure property managers must follow when making a claim on a tenant’s security deposit. From conducting thorough move-out inspections to documenting damages and adhering to strict legal deadlines, understanding each step of this process is crucial. By following these guidelines, property managers can effectively manage security deposit claims, minimize disputes, and uphold the integrity of their property management practices.

F.S. 83.49

F.S. 83.49 controls the landlord’s treatment of the security deposit held for the tenant’s faithful performance of the lease agreement. The landlord must make deliver written notice of intent to make a claim by certified mail to the tenant’s last known address within 30 days of the vacate date upon termination of the lease if the landlord has the intention of making a claim. If the landlord fails to strictly comply with the claim process in F.S. 83.49, the landlord will waive the ability to make a claim on the deposit. Not only that, but the claims must be lawful.

Here is a sample process for handing the security deposit claim process.

Vacate Date

IMPORTANT! Determine the “vacate date upon termination of the lease” and calendar the drop-dead date for certify mailing the deposit claim. 

Note: if the tenant abandoned, the “vacate date upon termination of the lease” should be the date that you retake possession of the premises, but this involves a legal question, so you should consult your attorney.

Note: if the tenant has vacated early and you have accepted their surrender, the lease termination date is the date you agreed the tenant could vacate early.

Email Owner, “Tenant Vacated“, and provide to landlord the move-out condition report:

What Can be Claimed

You can only claim the deposit for:

  • Damages beyond normal wear and tear, and
  • Unpaid monies owed under the lease agreement (e.g. back rent, late fees, cleaning fees, etc.)
  • Only claim what the tenant is responsible for and properly account for depreciation and apportionment of obligation.

Process to Prepare the Security Deposit Claim

Preparing for the security claim includes the following tasks:

  • inspect the property as soon as possible after the tenant vacates,
  • look for damages and needed maintenance,
  • document all damages and maintenance needs,
  • determine what damages and repairs are the landlord’s and tenant’s obligation,
  • if causation and apportionment of obligation is in question, contact professionals who can assist in answering the questions,
  • get quotes for service on repairs or maintenance needed,
  • for repairs that are tenant’s obligation, determine what portion of the cost of material and labor is attributable to the tenant,
  • update the landlord on damages and needed repairs,
  • communicate with the landlord what repairs or maintenance are needed prior to marketing and/or renting to a new tenant as opposed to deferred repairs or maintenance,
  • if landlord approval is required for repairs or maintenance, get landlord’s approval,
  • order repairs approved and needed prior to marketing and/or renting to a new tenant,
  • determine what outstanding monies the tenant owes and that accrued during the tenancy (e.g. cleaning fees, unpaid rent, etc.),
  • calculate all monetary obligations of the tenant incurred during the tenancy,
  • prepare a written notice of intent to impose claim on the security deposit no later than 25 days after the vacate date, and
  • certify mail the notice of intent to make a claim on the deposit no later than 30 days after the tenant vacated the unit.

On the Inspection

Very soon after the vacate date, complete a move-out inspection as soon as possible after the vacate date. Take thorough pictures of the conditions of the property. You may have to prove the tenant caused damage to the property, so ensure that all evidence is properly documented.

On Documenting Evidence

At the inspection, document and photograph all damage. Compare move-out photos with move-in photos. Notate the location of the where and what the photos depict in the property because not being able to identify and locate the damage at issue may cause problems with proving the claims if they are challenged.

On Repairs Needed

For repairs that need to be made, take note of what is the tenant’s obligation and what may be the landlord’s obligation. The obligation may even be a blend of the two. Do not charge the tenant for items that were not caused by tenant. If the tenant is partially responsible for a cost, charge the tenant in fair proportion to his obligation. Ensure all repair receipts, invoices, and estimates are completed and sent to you no later than 20 days after vacate date, so you have time to prepare the security deposit claim.

Claim Notice

Prepare the security deposit claim no later than the 24th day after the vacate date, and use a Security Deposit Claim Evidence Checklist (see sample below) to ensure proper claims are being made and sufficient evidence exists to support the claim.

Certified Mail Deadline

Set a deadline to certify mail the claim no later than 25 days after vacate date. Even though you have 30 days from the vacate date, it is good practice not to wait to the last minute to certify mail the claim to the tenant.

Certify mail the claim notice to the tenant’s last known address (if you have knowledge of the tenant’s new address, mail to that address). Note: even though F.S. 83.49(5) relieves the landlord of duty to certify mail the deposit claim if the tenant abandons or leaves early and doesn’t provide a forwarding address with at least 7 days’ written notice by certified mail or personal delivery prior to vacating or abandoning the premises, it is prudent to certify mail the claim anyway to avoid any issues or contests in this regard; it is a small cost to avoid bigger problems later.

Do Not Miss the Deadline

29 days after vacate date – DROP-DEAD DEADLINE – Certify mail the claim to tenant’s last known address. Do not wait until the 30th day. The chances of issues arising about the mail date go up significantly if you wait until the 30th day.

Supplement Claim

Tip: If there is a balance “owed to tenant” from the deposit, do not send the balance to the tenant until the 31st day after the vacate date, because if you discover a claim should be made on the deposit that was not claimed on the initial deposit claim, you can supplement the claim as long as you certify mail the supplement within the 30 day claim period. 

Specificity of Claims

Sufficiently specify the claims in the notice, such that a reasonable person would understand the charge, the reason for the charge, and any details that would explain the reason for the charge. 

Examples of specificity include the following:

  • $250.00 – Cleaning throughout the house, including, 1) sweep all hard floors, 2) oven, 3) toilet in master bedroom, 4) tubs in all bathrooms
  • $150 – Repair walls, including 1) patch large nail holes in master bedroom and living room, 2) paint over patched areas.$250 – carpet cleaning fee pursuant to the lease agreement
  • $150 – remove tenant’s personal property, trash and garbage left behind at the premises and dispose of the same$1,000 – unpaid rent for August 2022$200 – unpaid late fees for August 2022 

Examples of lack of specificity include the following:

  • $500 – repair damage 
  • $250 – clean
  • $1,000 – unpaid rent and late fees

Valuation of damages

Least Cost to Make Landlord Whole

If there is more than one method of making the landlord whole regarding a repair or damaged item, the lesser cost option is preferable. If the more expensive appears to be a better decision, consult with your broker or attorney before approving the greater cost option. 


You cannot charge for full value of a damaged or missing item where the item has depreciated value. You can charge for the depreciated value of the item and the cost of labor to repair or replace the damaged or missing item.

Contribution/Proportion of liability

If the tenant contributed partly to the damage, but is not fully responsible for all the damage that was repaired, the claim for repair costs must be proportional based on the tenant’s contribution of liability. For example, if the premises had nail holes prior to move-in, and tenant also put nail holes in the walls during the tenancy, and the repair cost for all the nail holes is, say, $200, but the tenant’s nail holes only comprised, say, 50% of the work performed, the claim may only be 50% of $200.

No Windfall

Courts will deny the landlord’s “windfall” opportunity. In other words, landlords are limited to the least amount of damages valuation that makes the landlord whole. For example, if a small portion of the carpet is damaged in one room, the landlord cannot claim that the tenant owes for replacement of the carpet throughout the house.

In conclusion, managing security deposit claims requires meticulous attention to detail and strict adherence to legal protocols. By following the outlined procedures, property managers can ensure fair and lawful handling of security deposits, reducing the risk of disputes and enhancing tenant relations. If you need expert guidance or have questions about the security deposit claim process, don’t hesitate to reach out to Property Management Law Solutions. Our experienced team is here to help you navigate these challenges with confidence and expertise. Contact us today to ensure your property management practices are compliant and effective.

Property Management Law Solutions, LLC is a Florida law firm that specializes in landlord-tenant law and is a landlord-only law firm. We provide statewide services including evictions, consultation plans, education and training, membership plans, lease agreement plans and more. If you are a landlord or property manager, contact us today or subscribe to one of our online membership plans.