Imagine this scenario; a tenant has just moved out of an apartment, and the landlord goes to do a move-out walkthrough of the vacant apartment. She finds that the former-tenant did not clean the carpet in one of the bedrooms before moving out. Before refunding the tenant’s security deposit, the landlord proceeds to deduct the cost of cleaning the carpet.
Here is the question; was the landlord right to do this? Does the law allow her to do it?
Depending on whom you ask, you will get an answer for or against the landlord.
Whether you’re a landlord or a renter, it’s important to know where you stand when it comes to responsibilities surrounding carpet cleaning. Here, we talk through the legal requirements for everyone involved.
The general guidelines
This is one of those times where there is no clear-cut answer, and each case has to be judged by its merits. Yet there are a few guidelines that can help both landlords and tenants know where their rights end and the other party’s rights begin.
Generally speaking, the law does not permit landlords to charge renters for carpet cleaning. But, at the same time, there are situations where it allows a property owner to deduct carpet-cleaning costs from a tenant’s security deposit.
In every case where there is dispute between landlord and tenant over responsibility for carpet-cleaning, two factors are considered:
- The law looks at original state of the carpet at tenant move-in.
- It also checks if the damage under consideration is the result of fair wear-and-tear or the result of a tenant’s actions.
Based on these two points, it reaches a decision.
Here is what the majority of state laws say about tenant’s responsibility for cleaning their apartment’s carpets.
- The carpets in a rental unit must be cleaned before tenant move-in
- Carpet-cleaning is part of the costs a landlord incurs for renting-out an apartment. Therefore, the property owner is responsible for standard carpet cleaning.
- When they leave, tenants must return the carpets to the same condition they were in when the tenant moved in, except for normal wear-and-tear
- Any damage that is not normal wear-and-tear is the tenant’s responsibility
Based on these, it is the landlord’s responsibility to clean the carpets in a rental, as long as the rug only suffers from normal wear-and-tear.
However, if the damage is deemed to be the result of a tenant’s negligence, the tenant must pay for the cleaning of the carpet.
Occasions when landlords can charge tenants for carpet-cleaning
The big question is: how do you determine when damage is normal wear-and-tear and when it is unusual damage?
Damage beyond normal wear and tear
If the carpet in a rental is extremely dirty or damaged, the landlord can require the owner to pay for cleaning. Examples of what might constitute excessive dirt include:
- Major stains
- Signs of oil spillage
- Paint or animal urine on the carpet
The standard way that landlords determine if a carpet is unusually dirty is by how much effort it takes for a pro cleaner to treat the carpet. If the cost of cleaning the carpet exceeds the standard rates, the landlord can claim that it is unusually dirty.
When the carpet is not adequately cleaned at tenant move-out
When a tenant vacates an apartment, the carpets are required to be returned to their original condition at the time of tenant move-in. In most states, the landlord cannot dictate what measures the tenant takes to return the carpets to their proper shape.
However, property owners do have a right to demand that a carpet be re-cleaned if it has not been returned to its prior condition. If the tenant fails to comply, the landlord may clean the carpet and deduct the cost from the tenant’s security deposit.
When the lease agreement requires it
In some states, it’s illegal for landlords to demand that an apartment’s carpets be professionally cleaned before a tenant moves out of the rental. But in some states, including this clause in the lease agreement is permitted.
If the apartment is located in a state where it is legal to have this clause in the lease, the landlord may add it. And if the tenant fails to abide by the terms of the lease and does not clean the carpets, the landlord can deduct the cost of carpet-cleaning from the security deposit.
So, can a landlord charge tenants for carpet cleaning? In most cases, the answer is no. But if a tenant has been irresponsible, the landlord may charge. For clarity on the issue, the state’s laws should be consulted.
If you need help restoring your carpets to pristine condition, get in touch with our team for a comprehensive quote.
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