Landlords and tenants need each other but in the process of working out the terms of their relationship, both parties can lose sight of this fact. That’s why landlord-tenant relationships are often filled with conflicts. Each side is always on the lookout to make sure they are not defrauded by the other.
An example of a common issue that causes disputes between landlords and tenants is cleaning. If a tenant moves out of a rental property and the landlord goes to inspect the apartment, can the owner make the tenant pay if he or she thinks the tenant failed to clean a carpet in the home properly?
If you are that tenant, does your landlord have the right to deduct the cost of cleaning the carpet from your security deposit? Or, as the owner of the rental, what options for redress are available to you when you discover that a tenant has damaged the carpets in your rental property?
This post explains the position of the law in this kind of situation. Regardless of what state you live in, the rental rules are more or less the same. But before following the advice in this post, it is a good idea to check your state regulations to make sure there are no significant differences.
Firstly, there are no hard and fast rules for dealing with these types of situations. Each case is judged on its own merits. Nevertheless, there are general guidelines that make it easier to reach a decision. The guidelines form the basis for deciding each person’s rights and liabilities.
Guideline #1: Carpets must be clean at the time of tenant move-in
The landlord is responsible for ensuring that the carpet in the rental is clean at the time of tenant move-in. This is because the home as well as the carpet belong to the landlord and are therefore the owner’s responsibility. Furthermore, the tenant must be happy with the condition of the carpet during move-in.
The condition of the carpet should be noted during the move-in inspection before the landlord hands over the home to the tenant. This move-in inspection should be conducted in the presence of the tenants and the results of the inspection documented in the lease signed by the tenant.
Guideline #2: Routine carpet cleaning is the landlord’s responsibility
Carpet cleaning is one of the risks a landlord incurs for renting out an apartment. Based on this, landlords cannot charge tenants for carpet cleaning, unless the damage to the carpet is not the result of normal wear and tear. Normal wear and tear is the responsibility of the landlord.
What is normal wear and tear on a carpet?
Normal wear is expected damage from the normal use of the carpet. It happens slowly over time and includes:
- Gentle wearing away in high-traffic areas, such as near doorways or along hallways
- Wearing away or thinning as a result of aging
- Fading or discoloration due to age or exposure to sunlight
Any kind of damage which does not fit into these categories may be considered unusual damage or abuse and the landlord is not responsible for unusual damage to the carpet. What are some of the kinds of damage that can be viewed as unusual damage to a carpet?
- Stains – Food stains, stains from pet urine, stains by children, and oil, grease, or paint stains.
- Rips and tears – From dragging heavy furniture across the carpet, pets chewing or clawing on the carpet, and tears that are not in high-traffic areas.
- Burns – From cigarettes, cooking accidents, fallen candles, clothes, irons, curling irons, or any burns that are not the results of sparks flying from the fireplace.
Any damage to the carpet that is the result of abuse by the tenant is the tenant’s responsibility. If this kind of damage is present, the landlord has the right to make the tenant pay.
Guideline #3: Upon moving out, the tenant must return the carpet to its original condition
Tenants are required to return the carpet to the condition it was in when they moved in, minus the effects of natural wear and tear. If a tenant fails to leave the carpet as clean as it was when they took over the apartment, the landlord has a right to charge the tenant for carpet cleaning.
A few things to bear in mind
Landlords and renters serve one another. Landlords make it possible for renters to have decent accommodations without the financial burden of buying their own home. Tenants, on the other hand, make it possible for landlords to earn a return on the money they invested to buy that home.
Can the landlords demand that a tenant have the carpet professionally cleaned when the tenant moves out? This depends on the state where the rental property is located. In some states, this is not allowed but it is permitted in other states.
How can landlords and tenants tell the difference between wear and tear and abuse? Usually, it is best to hire a carpet cleaning specialist. This person will be able to give both landlord and tenant an unbiased opinion of the cause of the damage to the carpet.