Now before we go into the claim process I want to tell you a little about our Tenant Handbook. This is what we give to our Tenants and have them sign before they move in, it looks pretty but it is full of useful info and disclosures about what is expected of them and the landlord regarding payments and maintenance, plus there is a move out checklist in the back. This checklist goes over all the things the tenant needs to do such as cleaning, paint touch ups, removing trash, etc before they hand the keys in to us. This list makes it very clear what is expected in order to get a full refund of the deposit and therefore there should be no surprises at the end of their lease.
Let me be clear, I don't like deposit claims... Well actually I really don't like damages. Damages cost property managers time, because cleaning and repairs take time away from a unit being shown, time unnecessarily wasted to arrange vendors and repairs. However we must keep our properties in good rentable condition and if damage or wear and tear happens then we need to take care of it.
A day or two before the tenants move in we complete a professional written photo move in inspection, which is saved as a PDF for emailing if needed. After the tenant moves out we do another inspection and can easily compare side by side each area of the house to inspect for visible damages. If damages are spotted we go ahead and arrange the repairs and whatever the cost is we place a claim on the tenants deposit.
We cannot legally just take the monies from the tenants deposit. We have to hold the deposit in escrow and go through a process dictated by Florida Law. The penalty for not doing this can be three times the tenants security deposit. We use a form such as this, which has to be certified mailed to the tenant, and contains the legal language required by Florida Law to disclose to the Tenant that they have 15 days upon receipt of the notice to dispute the claim in writing. How do we know when the tenant has received the notice? We use a return receipt requiring a signature card that is mailed back to us to say when it was physically accepted.
The claim form has to itemize the claims, whether we are deducting for damages or unpaid rent. We also include a check for the left over difference so that the Tenant can accept that without having to spend extra time writing back to accept the claim.
If the Tenant does write back to dispute the claim, expect a long letter. Usually when a Tenant is upset and feels they have been "wronged" by a deposit claim we receive a large package or letter that is more than a page or two in length. We might also get a bad review online. Therefore for each claim we have to make sure we are make a valid deduction which is fair and legal. Plus we want to have proof of the damage with photos and a written report. That means we are not scared into just sending the tenant their whole deposit back when they raise hell. We need to read through their arguments, double check the photos and claim to make sure there were not errors, and finalize the claim. At this point we will let our landlord know there has been a dispute and give them the final decision with our recommendation as what is best to do. We usually write back a final letter to say that we received their comments but the landlord decided after looking at everything to proceed with the claim. Now we can release the monies owed to the landlord.
The whole process usually takes approx. 3 weeks or so from start to finish, and is legally required by all landlords that rent Florida property. And it is covered in our management fees.
If you want to find out more, just drop us a line or visit us on the web at http://www.wemanageorlando.com.