Can My Landlord Make Me Pay To Replace The Carpet?

by | Aug 23, 2012 | Security Deposits

When we moved in, our landlord warned us that the carpet ‘easily stains’ so we must take our shoes off. We do but after two years of living there, the carpet is definitely worn down.

Now she claims that the carpet should not be so dirty & that our upstairs neighbor has the same carpet that is very clean. We also have had a few accidents which we know we are responsible for- a few burn marks & a nail polish stain. The landlord is claiming that because of how dirty the carpet is in addition to the marks, we will be responsible for replacing the entire apartment because she does not want ‘seams’!

If the carpet is thoroughly cleaned when we move out, and all that remain are the few marks we are responsible for, can she make us replace the entire carpeting?

Ah, carpets…one of the big three, along with hardwood floors and ovens. If all landlords are attracted to a dirty ovens like Sylvia Plath, then those with carpets must surely be dubbed Wall-To-Wall-Aladdins. “The tenants made the lovely shag carpet (it’s forty fucking years old) lose its magic!”

My first, unrelated, question is: How the hell does your landlord even know about the “dirty” condition of the carpets? What, do you just let her in when she knocks? Is that okay with you? If it is, get a fucking backbone and understand that landlords must give notice–written, legal notice–to enter your apartment.

The dispositive question one must ask is, “How old is the carpet?” That’s important because carpets don’t last forever. Here’s an example from the California Department of Consumer Affairs:

Carpets and drapes – “useful life” rule

Normal wear and tear to carpets, drapes and other furnishings cannot be charged against a tenant’s security deposit. (Civil Code Section 1950.5(e).) Normal wear and tear includes simple wearing down of carpet and drapes because of normal use or aging, and includes moderate dirt or spotting. In contrast, large rips or indelible stains justify a deduction from the tenant’s security deposit for repairing the carpet or drapes, or replacing them if that is reasonably necessary.

One common method of calculating the deduction for replacement prorates the total cost of replacement so that the tenant pays only for the remaining useful life of the item that the tenant has damaged or destroyed. For example, suppose a tenant has damaged beyond repair an eight-year-old carpet that had a life expectancy of ten years, and that a replacement carpet of similar quality would cost $1,000. The landlord could properly charge only $200 for the two years’ worth of life (use) that would have remained if the tenant had not damaged the carpet.

There aren’t many carpets that have much more life expectancy than ten years. When you apply the same formula above to the “I’m walking on roadkill” (think Katrina and the Waves) carpet, your landlord ought to owe you some dough.

But in your case, if the carpet is relatively new, you may owe the landlord some money if you move and she deducts it from your security deposit.

Just between you and me, and this ain’t legal advice by any stretch of the imagination, I’ve repaired carpets myself. One can do things like carefully trimming off the burned top of the pile on the carpet. Or, cutting out a little piece of the carpet in a closet and gluing it in a small stained area that one has carefully removed like a hair plug. I’m talking small area here, like at most an half an inch square. Don’t try to replace the blood stains from a Goodfellas-style beat down.

Ask an expert. There are plenty of tricks to repair carpet that won’t involve a security deposit deduction.

Make sure you take photos when you move out. If the landlord attempts to deduct from your security deposit, go to the San Francisco Tenants Union to discuss how you can sue her for maximum damages.

Finally, ask yourself, “What kind of asshole would have a carpet in a rental unit that ‘easily stains’ except a Cheese Ball who relies on her tenants to pay for its replacement every time they move out?” Should you have rented from that asshole in the first place?


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