Can a landlord keep money from your deposit if they never charged a pet deposit?

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Can a landlord keep money from your deposit if they never charged a pet deposit?

Also, if the house was damaged before you moved in, can the landlord charge you for those same damages when you move out? How do you fight them for your deposit money to be refunded?

Asked on June 30, 2015 under Real Estate Law, Florida

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

A landlord can only keep money from your security deposit to 1) pay for damage done by you, your family, your guests, or your pets to the property, which damage exceeds normal "wear and tear" for the amount of time you lived there; and 2) unpaid rent that you move out owing. There is no other reason the landlord can keep your deposit, and that includes retaining money because you had a pet (unless the pet did damage, of course) or for pre-existing damage, present when you move in. If you believe the landlord illegally or improperly withheld part or all of your deposit, you can sue the landlord, such as in small claims court, for its return. (You can act as your own attorney, or "pro se," to reduce costs.) You would present testimony and evidence, if any (e.g. photos, a move-in or move-out checklist) to show that you did not do damage; the landlord can present evidence and testimony that you did, and what it will cost to fix; a court will determine who is right and, if appropriate, order the return of some or all of your deposit.


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