The Big Picture On Can Landlords Charge Tenants to Replace the Carpets:

    • Carpets are subject to normal wear and tear, and landlords need to consider this as an eventual expense. However, tenants can also cause damage to carpets. Landlords should know the difference between wear and tear and damage in order to know when to charge tenants to replace carpets. 
    • If it’s established that the tenant is liable to pay for damages, landlords must follow a step-by-step process to ensure that their claim is respected by any court. 
    • Landlords are advised to familiarize themselves with their state’s specific laws regarding security deposits and tenant charges to avoid legal issues and ensure they are acting within the law.
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charge tenants for carpet damage 2

Carpets don’t stay pristine forever. Often, landlords have to replace them between every single tenancy.

But should landlords always pay for replacing ruined carpets? Can they ever charge tenants to replace them?

Here’s what landlords need to know about carpets, security deposits, and charging tenants.

 

Damage vs. Normal Wear and Tear

Over time, carpets inevitably suffer from “normal wear and tear.” This includes discoloration and thinning in areas that see the most foot traffic.

By law, landlords may not charge tenants for normal wear and tear. If the carpet is just dirty then you as the landlord must pay for it to be cleaned.

Damage, however, is typically caused by a single action or incident, or repeated misuse. Here’s a table that explains the difference between the two:

Aspect Normal Wear and Tear Damage
Definition Gradual deterioration that occurs naturally over time with normal use. Excessive harm that exceeds normal usage patterns.
Examples – Minor stains from repeated use – Large stains from spills or pet accidents
– Frayed edges or worn patches due to consistent foot traffic – Torn or ripped areas from misuse
– Fading or thinning over large areas due to age and sunlight exposure – Burns from cigarettes or irons
Tenant Responsibility Typically, none; falls under landlord’s maintenance obligations. Tenant may be charged for repairs or replacement.
Landlord Actions Landlord replaces or repairs as part of routine property maintenance. Landlord can deduct costs from security deposits or bill tenant directly.
Considerations Usually does not affect the habitability of the dwelling. May affect habitability or rental value of the property.

With serious damage or stains, the landlord can charge the tenant for replacement or cleaning costs. Should a tenant refuse to pay, you can withhold part of his/her security equivalent to the amount needed to replace or clean the carpet.

 

When Landlords Should Pay for Carpets

Under normal circumstances, the landlord should pay for regular carpet cleaning services. These costs are part of the standard turnover expenses. Landlords should budget for these when calculating rental cash flow to avoid surprises.

In many cases where security deposit disputes move to court, landlords lose. Landlord-tenant laws prohibit rental property owners from withholding security deposits to cover standard carpet cleaning.

If the carpet isn’t permanently damaged, the tenant shouldn’t bear the cost of replacing it. Therefore, any carpet cleaning/replacement cost due to normal wear and tear is the landlord’s responsibility, not the tenant’s.

 

When to Charge Tenants for Carpets

The tenant should pay for cleaning or replacement if the carpet is stained or otherwise damaged beyond normal wear and tear. In this case, the landlord can deduct the cost from the tenant’s security deposit.

Damage from pet urine, deep stains, paint, or oil requires extra hours and resources to clean. In this case, the cleaning cost often exceeds the standard cost of a routine carpet cleaning. Thus, the landlord is justified in withholding part of the security deposit to cover the additional cost. However, the landlord must prove that the tenant caused the damage.

Some landlords include clauses specifically addressing carpet cleaning or replacement on the lease agreement to avoid security deposit disputes when the tenant is moving out. This ensures that the tenant is fully aware of what is expected of them before signing the lease. However, the landlord shouldn’t deduct the basic cleaning fee from the security deposit if the tenant gets the carpets cleaned professionally before vacating the premises.

Note that the rules on security deposit deductions differ from one state to another. As a landlord, you should familiarize yourself with the laws touching on this in your state to avoid being close to the law. Alternatively, you can hire a property manager to relieve your burden.

 

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What If the Tenant Objects?

When tenants move out, the landlord must either return their security deposit in full or provide them a written breakdown of all deductions. Landlords must do this within a certain number of days, which varies by state.

If a tenant objects to a deduction from their security deposit, they must file in small claims court. There a judge will decide whether to uphold the security deposit deduction or force the landlord to refund it, perhaps with penalties or covering the tenant’s legal fees.

So, pick and choose your battles carefully when deducting from a security deposit.

 

How to Calculate Security Deposit Deductions for Carpets

Since a security deposit isn’t part of the rent, you need to follow the right protocol in justifying the reason you withheld it. Follow these steps when you deduct carpet damages from the security deposit.

 

1. Take Photos at Move-In & Move-Out

Before a new tenant moves in, you should document the condition of the property. That includes both taking photos (with time stamps!) and filling out a Move-In/Move-Out Condition Statement (which we include in our lease agreements).

Provide copies of these photos to the tenant, to demonstrate transparency.

Upon move-out, repeat the process, with the same condition statement and taking new photos. These pictures are compared to the state of the house when the tenant is moving out to determine the extent of the damage caused by the renters, if any.

 

2. Document the Carpet’s Life Expectancy

The life expectancy of many carpets is about ten years. You ought to keep tabs on the carpet’s life expectancy to know when it is due for replacement. The tenant is not responsible for replacement of the carpet if it has outlived its life expectancy. Be honest about this when drafting the lease agreement to avoid disputes in the future.

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3. Calculate the Total Security Deposit Deduction

If irreparable damage was caused by the tenant then he or she has to pay for a replacement. However, they don’t bear all the costs.

You must factor in the age of the carpet and its remaining useful years during the calculations—so, exactly like depreciation. The tenant only pays an amount equal to the value of the carpet for the remaining useful years. Also, this is based on the amount you had spent purchasing the carpet.

Here’s an example table for a carpet that costs $1,500, computed using straight line depreciation: 

Year Depreciation per Year Accumulated Depreciation Remaining Value
1 $150 $150 $1,350
2 $150 $300 $1,200
3 $150 $450 $1,050
4 $150 $600 $900
5 $150 $750 $750
6 $150 $900 $600
7 $150 $1,050 $450
8 $150 $1,200 $300
9 $150 $1,350 $150
10 $150 $1,500 $0

So, if a the tenant damaged the carpet on its ninth year of life, they’re only liable to pay $150. 

Basing damages on depreciation is a great way to be fair, yet some states may require tenants to pay for the whole purchase amount regardless of the carpet’s lifespan.  If you need to know if you belong in those areas, please consult your local or state laws. 

However, the IRS indicates that carpets only have a 5-year lifespan for tax purposes using General Depreciation Systems and nine years with the Alternative Depreciation System. That can serve as a general guide, but just to be sure, consult your local laws.

 

4. Send the Security Deposit Deduction Breakdown

If you deduct part of the tenant’s security deposit to pay for damages to the carpet you must send a written notification, before the expiration of the agreed period to refund the deposit.

This notification should specify the amount being withheld, the damages, pro-rata calculation breakdown, and the remaining balance to be refunded (if any).

 

Final Word

Whether a landlord can charge tenants for carpet replacement or cleaning depends on the cause of the problem and the condition of the carpet at the start of the rental agreement. As a landlord, you should include carpet damage explicitly in your lease terms to prevent disputes.

Remember, “normal wear and tear” is gradual. Damage is caused from a single incident or misuse.

If your tenant threatens to take you to court over a security deposit deduction, consider mediation or negotiating a compromise. Settling the matter fast allows the tenant to move on and the landlord to focus on fixing the property in readiness for another tenant.

 

Have you ever charged a tenant for carpets? What happened?

 

 

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