Do you know a tenant who will be moving soon?
This article has a few tips for tenants who will be moving from a rental home in Florida. Although each tenant’s circumstances are different, there are some basic things that every tenant should consider in the move-out process. If a tenant has any concerns or doubts about following the below tips, that tenant should consult with an attorney before taking action on the tip.
Over the years of representing hundreds and hundreds to tenants, I have, repeatedly, advised tenants to do the following:
Make It Clear that Landlord Has Failed to Make Necessary Repairs
Tenants are most surprised when landlords send them a bill to fix things that the landlord either (1) refused to repair during the lease or (2) claims not to have known about at all. Moreover, tenants are surprised when landlords lock them out of the maintenance request portal—leaving them with absolutely no proof that they actually and repeatedly put the landlord on notice for the need for such repairs.
Therefore, as soon as possible, tenants must put the landlord on notice of items that the landlord had a responsibility to fix during the lease–but the landlord failed to do so. The medium used to notify the landlord will vary upon the tenant’s circumstances. For example, if a tenant has a good working relationship with the landlord, sending a text or email should be sufficient (assuming that this is how the parties have communicated in the past). Such tenants should consider something sending like this:[Landlord/Property Manager Name], this is a friendly reminder that the [item that needs fixing] needs to be fixed. Please refer to my texts/emails dated [dates of emails or texts] requesting the repairs. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
However, if the tenant and the landlord do not have a cordial relationship, it’s best for the tenant to use one of these free forms and to send it to the landlord via certified mail:
Find and Use the Move-In Inspection Report
If possible, every tenant should locate and use the move-in walk-through inspection list, if any. Tenants should consider using the Move-In Inspection Report as their cleaning list since the landlord will likely consult it (if favorable to the landlord) to determine if the tenant deserves all or a portion of the security deposit back.
Also, if the tenant needs to file a lawsuit against the landlord for a return of the security deposit, the Move-In Inspection Report should be provided to the tenant’s attorney.
By far, this is one of the most effective pieces of evidence that I use in security deposit lawsuits. Indeed, it tends to be star evidence since many landlords either forget about them or think that the tenant has lost them.
Request a Move Out Inspection and/or DIY
Every tenant should, in writing, request at least one move out walk-thru and schedule at least one of these move out inspections on the day that the tenant will turn the keys in. Why? It proves the date the tenant returned possession of the rental home to the landlord—and if there is a concern about the conditions of the rental home, the tenant will have a fair opportunity to correct them.
Some tenants like to request an additional walk thru a few weeks before move out to allow for more time to address a landlord’s concerns. However, these tenants should be sure to ask for a follow-up inspection on the date the tenant returns the keys.
Some tenants have been absolutely shocked that when landlords will tell them that it goes against their policy to do walk out inspections. Tenants should know that this is a legal maneuver. Therefore, if this happens, the tenant should not let that be the last word. Tenants should consider, again, in writing, asking the landlord to reconsider since the tenant would like to resolve any potential disputes before turning in the keys.
If the landlord continues to refuse—and I have the above proof of such, I can generally use this factor against the landlord in a security deposit lawsuit.
In any event, tenants should still create their own DIY Move-In Inspection Reports on the date that the tenant turns over the keys. However, tenants should consult with their attorneys before sharing the DIY Move-In Inspection Report with the landlord. This is especially true before the landlord sends the tenant the notice of claim on the security deposit.
Take Pictures and Move Out Videos
Tenants should strongly consider taking a video and/or plenty of pictures of the move out conditions of the rental property on the day that the tenant returns the keys to the rental home. If the tenant has the ability to date and/or timestamp the pictures or videos, the tenant should consider doing so.
Also, tenants should minimize any talking during the video. Also, the person who takes the pictures and/or video will have to testify to such at any trial relating to the security deposit.
Tenants should consider uploading their videos and/or pictures to YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, Dropbox, etc. That way, if something happens to their cell phone/camera, they will still have access to their evidence. YouTube and drop boxes are great for videos since tenants will only need to send their attorney links to the videos instead of attempting to email large files, which can become challenging and frustrating.
Arrange for Independent Witnesses to Witness the Move Out Inspection
If possible, tenants should arrange to have at least one independent witness walk through the property with them at move out. However, before settling on a particular witness, tenants should make sure that this person will be willing to come to court if the tenant ends suing the landlord for a return of the security deposit.
Confirm the Landlords’ Receipt of the Return of the Keys
Another area where landlords shock tenants is when a landlord claims tenants owe them additional rent because the tenant did not return possession of the rental home to the landlord timely manner—or not at all. These landlord may argue that they must be put on clear notice of the very moment the tenant returned the rental premises to the landlord. In some circumstances, this can be a fair argument.
Therefore, in the very best circumstances, tenants should not only deliver the keys of the rental home to the landlord, but then to follow up with a written confirmation. For example, tenants should consider sending a text or email to the landlord confirming the date and time that the tenant turned over the keys. For example, tenants should consider something similar:[Landlord/Property Manager Name], thanks for making yourself available [date] at [time] to [do a walkout inspection and to receive the keys]/[receive the keys]. Again, my forwarding address is [Forwarding Address].
Or if the landlord requires the tenant to turn in the keys by mailing them, the tenant should make sure to get a signature that confirms delivery. This tenant should also consider enclosing the keys with a letter that identifies the keys being returned, the rental home’s address, and the tenant’s forwarding address.
Provide the Landlord with A Forwarding Address
The Florida Residential Landlord and Tenant Act require tenants to provide the landlord with a forwarding address. Therefore, in the best of circumstances—and to increase the chances of a prompt return of the security deposit, a tenant should provide such forwarding address in writing,
Over the years, tenants have expressed concerns to me regarding giving their new addresses to landlords. However, the law does not require a tenant’s forwarding address to be the tenant’s new home address. It just has to be a valid address. However, a tenant should choose the address carefully. Why? Because if a tenant does not receive a return of the security deposit notice or a check, the person at this address may be required to testify as to such (if the landlord, indeed, claims that it sent such security deposit notice and/or check).
Thus, if a tenant chooses not to use their new home address, the tenant should consider using the address of a trusted and reliable friend, a family member, or a mailing service.
Wait for at least 40 days to hear back from the landlord.
Under Florida law, a landlord has thirty (30) days to notify the tenant that the landlord intends to impose a claim against the security deposit. Therefore, in purely security deposit matters, most attorneys will ask tenants to wait until this period is over before determining whether a tenant has a cause for concern or to start working on the case.
After receiving the security deposit notice or after not hearing back from the landlord after 40 days of moving out, request a full return of the security deposit.
Under Florida law, if the landlord fails to send a tenant a security deposit notice within thirty (30) days, the landlord forfeits the right to make a claim on the security deposit. Tenants should wait to ensure that the security deposit is not delayed in the mail before accusing the landlord of failing to comply with the law.
If no security deposit notice is received, a tenant should strongly consider writing the landlord and requesting a full return of the security deposit.
If a Security Deposit Notice is received, object to the claim on the Security Deposit.
Under Florida law, if a tenant fails to object to the claim on the security deposit with fifteen (15) days, the landlord is then allowed, by law, to impose a claim on the security deposit. Therefore, tenants are encouraged to object timely.
For more on objecting to a claim against a security deposit, read this article: Security Deposit–Received A Claim Against Your Security Deposit From Your Landlord? How Should You Respond?