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Security Deposit Disputes: Painting, Carpeting and Fixtures

Landlords can usually count on some form of a dispute or issue to arise when performing a final inspection of their rental property.  For your convenience, the three most common ones have been addressed below:

Painting – State statutes don’t actually specifically address who is responsible for paying for repainting – but if such an issue ever were to make it into a courtroom, judges would most likely consider how long the tenant occupied the property. The longer their tenancy, the more wear and tear would be expected. Therefore, it would be less likely that the tenant would be the one responsible for paying for a fresh coat of paint.

Carpeting – The same premise for painting basically goes for carpeting, as well. However, “normal wear and tear” must be examined more closely here: Obviously, if the tenant spills coffee or fruit punch on the carpet (even after having lived there for several years!), it is common for the tenant to be required to pay for at least the cleaning or a percentage of the replacement (if necessary). “Normal wear and tear” is commonly defined as everyday residential traffic. However: If it was genuinely time for the carpet to be replaced anyway, the tenant should not incur any of the replacement costs.

Fixtures – Anything attached to the property is typically defined as a fixture (e.g., ceiling fan, lighting, intercom, door bell, etc.). Depending on how you initially draft your lease agreement, the tenant is commonly responsible for leaving all of the original fixtures, as well as removing any new fixtures (and reinstalling the original ones) installed during the duration of their tenancy.

This means that if a tenant should remove a ceiling fan and replace it with one of their own while living there, they must then reinstall the original ceiling fan upon moving out.

Note: You can legally charge the tenant for any damage that may result from removing a fixture they installed and left behind, even though you were the one to remove it (that is – unless you gave them permission to install it in the first place).

To keep matters simple: Upon moving out, you should have the tenant return the property to its original condition (or document the new improvements you authorized). Otherwise, things can easily get complicated, trying to dispute what was and what wasn’t “authorized” in the future (resulting in endless debates).

Remember: It takes a little more time and effort, but having every correspondence or authorization documented in writing prevents a lot of unnecessary headaches down the road…