What to do if my landlord is charging me for damages beyond the security deposit?

Moved out of our apartment and received a letter asking for money for damages beyond our $250 security deposit. They are asking for $700 to pay for carpet reinstallation (could have been steam cleaned), repainting (could have been spot painted) and heavy cleaning (shouldn’t this be something the landlord does after every tenant leaves?). How do we move forward to deny these claims?

Asked on September 9, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Florida


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Tenants are not responsible for normal wear and tear; but they can be held responsible for cleaning or repaining occasioned by damage or exceptional staining done by the tenant, tenant's family, tenant's guests, or tenant's friends. So if, for example a tenant has children who leave so many greasy fingerprints on the walls that they can't be cleaned or spot repainted, but rather must be comprehensively repainted, the tenant can be charged for that.

To get back your security deposit if you disagree with the factual basis presented by the landlord (e.g. you don't agree these things had to be done), you'd have to sue the landlord.  For the landlord to get money beyond the deposit from you, if you don't voluntarily pay, he'd have to sue you. In either event, if the matter ends up in court, the parties will have the chance to prove their respective versions of events or cases by testimony, by photographs, by any correspondence between them describing the condition of the premises, etc.

FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

In every state in this country when a tenant vacates a rental the landlordis required to return his or her security deposit within a certain set time period (usually 21 to 45 days after move out). The the full amount is not returned in the required time period, the landlord is required to set forth an itemization in the required time period showing what was debited and for what with copies of receipts for back up purposes.

A landlord is not allowed to charge a tenant for normal wear and tear of the unit. Normal wear and tear pertains to the use of the carpet, rugs, and painting (unless there is severe damage).

Many landlords at the end of the lease try to charge the former tenant for new carpet, painting and cleaning hoping that the tenant does not contest the charge and pocket the security deposit and any extra money paid without installing new carpet and the like.

I suspect that the former landlord is trying to do the same to you.

I would write him or her a letter (keeping a copy for future use) requesting the return of your entire security deposit kept within a certain time period. If you do not receive the requested money, your option is small claims court.

Good luck.


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