What kind of damages is a landlord allowed to seek after a move out?

My landlord is seeking additional damages after my wife and I ended our lease. He is claiming that we owe additional monies on items such as a mattress that has a small kool aid stain but is otherwise in usable condition. Is he allowed to seek damages at full replacement cost; aren’t they restricted to seeking depreciated value on furniture with wear and tear? Can he charge for a cleaning service? Doesn’t he have the burden of proof in order to be able charge for all of his items? For example he is claiming that he is missing certain items that were not listed in our original lease.

Asked on July 17, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Florida


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

1) If an item has to be replaced, the landlord may seek the replacement cost, not the depreciated value; he is entitled to replace the damaged item.

2) A landlord may not charge for normal "wear and tear" but can change for damage and even cleaning that exceeds that. For example, if a tenant has a pet and there are pet urine stains, the landlord would charge to steam clean--or even replace--carpets; if the tenants left the rental unit so dirty or so filled with trash or cast-offs that a cleaning or removal service had to be hired, the landlord can charge for that.

3) Even if an item is "usuable," if it was clearly damaged, the landlord can seek to repair or replace it.

4) If the landlord sues you for the money--i.e you refuse to pay--he would have to prove the losses (that the items were there; that you damaged them; the extent of damage; and the cost to repair/replace) in court to prevail. He could do this by testimony, by photos, or by other documentary evidence.

If the landlord has withheld money from your security deposit, you could sue to recover it. While the landlord would have to provide testimony or documentation to suppport his withholding, since you're suing (you are the plaintiff), the burden of proof to show you did not cause the damage or that it was not as bad as stated would be on you.

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