Real estate Q&A: Security deposit as rent? Only if tenant, landlord agree

Q: Our lease ends soon and I'm worried that our landlord won't return the security deposit.

Q: Our lease ends soon and I'm worried that our landlord won't return the security deposit. We have since found out he has had several judgments against him for not returning security deposits to previous tenants. We have taken excellent care of the house. Can I use that deposit as my next-to-last month's rent? We already paid our last month's rent when we moved in.


A: The simple answer is that neither you nor your landlord can use the security deposit as rent, unless you both agree to do so. In Florida – and in many other states – the security deposit must be held in a separate bank account from the rent, and there are specific rules about how the landlord can make a claim against it.

At the end of your lease, the deposit must be returned within 15 days, unless the landlord makes a claim against it for damage, and then he or she must send you a certified letter within 30 days. After you get the letter, you have 15 days to object. If you don't, the landlord may deduct for the damage and return the rest to you.

If your landlord breaks the rules and just keeps the money – or if you object – the situation will end up in court. If you win the suit, you will get a judgment that you can "execute," or turn into money, if the landlord does not pay you.



Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He is the chairperson of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is an adjunct professor for the Nova Southeastern University Paralegal Studies program. Send him questions online at or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.

The information and materials in this column are provided for general informational purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is formed. Nothing in this column is intended to substitute for the advice of an attorney, especially an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.


(c)2014 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at

Distributed by MCT Information Services