Can I Charge for Damaged Carpet?
Some tenants leave carpets in worse condition than when they moved in. The question often arises as to whether or not the landlord can charge the tenant for cleaning, repairing or replacing the damaged carpet. The answer depends on many variables.
Normal Wear and Tear
A landlord cannot charge a tenant damages for normal wear and tear. A slightly worn carpet or a carpet that can be cleaned professionally is not considered “damaged.”
Excessively Dirty or Worn Carpet
In the case where a carpet is dirty and/or stained, the carpet must be cleaned and an attempt made to remove the stain. If steam cleaning or shampooing the carpet does not remove the dirt or stain and a professional has to be called in to clean the carpet, the landlord can charge the tenant for the extra cleaning. Cleaning the carpet one time is considered standard procedure for turning an apartment and is not chargeable to the tenant.
If the carpet is in such bad condition from dirt or staining, such as animal feces, urine, etc. and can’t be cleaned sufficiently and must be replaced, the tenant can be charged a prorated amount for replacement of the carpet depending on how old the carpet is. See prorating carpet damage charges below.
Torn or Otherwise Damaged Carpet
If a carpet is simply worn in high traffic areas, this would be considered normal wear and tear and would not be chargeable to the tenant as damage. However, if the tenant has ripped, burned, torn, etc. the carpet and it has to be repaired, the landlord can charge the tenant for the cost of the repairs. If the carpet cannot be repaired, the tenant can be charged for the replacement of the carpet by prorating the cost. See prorating carpet damage charges below.
Prorating Carpet Damages
Generally speaking, most courts will set the carpet’s life span at 10 years; so, the carpet would have to be depreciated by the number of years it has been in service to determine charges. Here’s an example: If the carpet was new when the tenant moved in three years ago and there are irremovable pet stains and non-repairable runs in the carpet, you could charge the tenant for the remaining life of the carpet, i.e. seven (7) years. To determine the amount to charge, take the value of the carpet when it was installed and divide that amount by ten (10). This gives you the annual depreciation cost of the carpet. Multiply the annual depreciation cost by seven (7) years to find the total amount to charge the tenant. This amount would be applied to the Notice of Damages sent to the tenant after the tenant has vacated the property.
Will I Get My Money?
First, be aware that if and when your damage case goes in front of a judge, you might not be awarded the amount that you request—or anything at all. Every court is different, as well as every judge’s ruling. There is no law specifying how carpet damage is to be charged and judges have the sole discretion when it comes to awarding damages.
Second, getting a money judgment does not guarantee that you’ll collect the monies owed. Following good collection and garnishment procedures is necessary once you have a judgment. See the related article on garnishments here.
Disclosure: This Knowledge Base article is accurate as of the last update. Laws and policies are subject to change. If you have any questions, please call the office. Click here for contact information.