Who pays for damaged carpet is one of the most common grey-area problems in the divide between landlord and tenant responsibilities. If a tenant stained or potentially ruined a carpet, who should pay for cleaning or replacing it?
The important distinction that will determine whether the landlord or tenant is on the hook for the repair of the carpet, or really any asset within the rental that is owned by the landlord, comes down to the definition of “normal wear and tear“.
Simply put, if the carpet damage is deemed to be within the definition of normal wear and tear, it falls under the landlord’s responsibility.
However, if the damage to the carpet is excessive and cannot be easily cleaned, the tenant is required to cover the cost.
If the damage to the carpet is excessive, one of the ways that a landlord can clean or replace the carpet is by using the security deposit.
Regardless of who pays for damaged carpet, a damaged carpet is a classic example of the importance of documenting your rental assets prior to tenant move-in.
Use a Thorough Move-in Checklist
We recommend documenting the condition of your property in detail during a walkthrough with your new tenants, prior to move-in.
This will give you a chance to agree on the condition of the assets you are letting your renters use during the tenancy. A walkthrough will also remove any doubt as to changes in the condition of the property upon move-out.
Having your tenant present during the walkthrough and require their signature to certify the accuracy of the move-in checklist. Doing this will protect you from liability in case you need to use the security deposit to pay for excessive damage.
Taking clear, high-quality pictures of all carpets in your property will prevent disputes later on. Make sure to use plenty of light when taking pictures to avoid any doubt arising from the quality of the pictures.
Here is a move-in checklist we put together for our landlords:
Zuby landlords often share the completed checklists with their tenants by uploading the document and pictures to their property in the Zuby app.
What is a Carpet’s Life Expectancy?
For the calculation of the cost, and therefore cost to replace an asset, use the life expectancy of the asset in question.
For example, the life expectancy of a carpet is typically 10 years.
This means that if you’ve had to replace a damaged carpet after 6 years, you really only lose 4 years of value, or 40%, of the replacement cost. This is because you already extracted 6 years, or 60%, of its expected use.
Use Life Expectancy to Calculate Fair Replacement Cost
If you determine that there’s no avoiding replacing a carpet entirely, use the 10-year life expectancy to arrive at a fair cost to charge your tenants.
It would not be fair, for example, to charge your tenants 100% of the cost of a brand new carpet, if it’s a 6-year-old carpet. To determine the fair price, take 40% of the cost of a new carpet since you’re really only losing 4 years of carpet value due to the damage caused by the tenant.
Sometimes, you can get away with replacing only parts of the carpet for a fraction of the cost, easing the financial burden of your tenants.
If the carpet is only badly stained from spilled coffee, wine, or soup, for example, you can try a deep clean instead of replacing it. This should lower the cost even more while maintaining the original carpet and preventing patches of new carpet.
Taking a fair approach and explaining it to your tenant isn’t only the right thing to do, but it will also minimize the chances of a dispute by your tenant, and increase the chances of a lease renewal.