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How Should Sarasota Landlords Deal with Rental Property Damage?

Human nature being what it is, it’s understandable that the initial inclination of many landlords is to charge tenants for everything wrong with a property at move-out. While there certainly are legitimate circumstances under which a tenant can and should be held responsible for property damage, there are also instances where a court would almost certainly reverse charges to tenants. To protect themselves against potential legal claims by tenants, landlords must know the difference between legitimate and illegitimate claims against a tenant’s security deposit.

First and Foremost, Know the Law

When it comes to property damage, Florida law is quite clear concerning what can and cannot be charged to the tenant. To put it in plain and simple language: If a tenant breaks stuff out of neglect, you can charge them—but normal wear-and-tear cannot be charged to the tenant.

Charging tenants for what the law would likely deem normal wear-and-tear is where landlords often get themselves into trouble.  For example, a tenant has been living in your rental unit for five years, and the carpeting was already three years old when they moved in. Given the fact that an “extremely well cared for” rental grade carpet might last seven years at the far end, it would likely be thrown out of court if you tried to charge the tenant for new flooring.

The fact is, some things wear out over time; it is the landlord’s—not the tenant’s—responsibility to repair/replace typical wear-and-tear items. So, what happens if a landlord attempts to charge a tenant for standard wear-and-tear items and the tenant balks and brings legal action against the landlord and prevails?

In addition to recovering whatever charges the landlord levied against the tenant’s security deposit (e.g., the cost of purchasing and installing a new carpet) the law adds this interesting twist in “Florida Statues Chapter 83 (Landlord and Tenant) Part II (Residential Tenancies) Section 83.48 (Attorney Fees).”

83.48 Attorney fees.—In any civil action brought to enforce the provisions of the rental agreement or this part, the party in whose favor a judgment or decree has been rendered may recover reasonable attorney fees and court costs from the non-prevailing party. The right to attorney fees in this section may not be waived in a lease agreement.

So, imagine this scenario: You charge the tenant $1800.00 for carpeting that the court determines should not have been charged due to the age and expected useful life of the carpet — the court determines that the deteriorated carpet is a result of normal wear-and-tear. Not only will you have to pay back the $1,800.00 that was retained from the tenant’s security deposit, but you will also have to pay the tenant’s $10,000.00 of attorney fees and court costs—don’t forget, that’s on top of your court costs!

Can you see why it is so vitally important that landlords understand the difference between legitimate damages caused by a tenant and normal wear-and-tear that is landlord responsibility?


If a tenant legitimately breaks or damages something in the property, they are liable and can be lawfully charged for the damages. Where Sarasota landlords get themselves into trouble is when they fail to consider the legal distinction between tenant-caused damage and normal wear-and-tear. This is an area where an experienced property manager’s advice and expertise can save rental owners thousands of dollars.

About the Author

John Michailidis is the broker/owner of Real Property Management of Sarasota & Manatee, a full-service residential property management and leasing company dedicated to helping landlords correctly price, advertise leases, and manage their properties. Real Property Management of Sarasota & Manatee screens tenants, collects rents, and handles maintenance calls 24/7/365 days a year on behalf of rental owners.

Mr. Michailidis is also a licensed attorney (non-practicing at this time) who personally owns rentals, so he “gets it.” If you own residential investment real estate anywhere in Manatee and/or Sarasota counties, from Parrish – Ellenton – Palmetto in the north, to Venice – North Port – Englewood in the south (and Port Charlotte, too!) feel free to reach out to his team at 941-216-0005, or through the website HERE.

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