Can a landlord deduct labor costs from a damage deposit?

UPDATED: Jun 2, 2011

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Can a landlord deduct labor costs from a damage deposit?

I sublet a room in my leased condo, and my roommate left several stains on the carpet, scuffs on the walls, a persistent odor of something resembling mothballs and concerns about bug infestations (minimal evidence, but she left used dishes and open food containers in the room for months at a time). If I do some of the cleanup myself, am I allowed to deduct labor costs from the damage deposit? There is no move-in/move-out report and she claims no responsibility for the damage. I have written records of the state of the room prior to her residency, and photos of the state she left it in.

Asked on June 2, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Georgia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

1) No, you may NOT take your own labor costs out of the damage deposit. If you use some outside contractor, whatever they charge for  their time is something you can take from the deposit; however,  the law does not allow a landlord to charge for her own time.

2) If the subtenant disputes the deductions you make, the issue will come down to credibility and proof. What evidence do you each have? Which of you is a more credible witness in court? If you're seeking to take the costs out of the deposit, you'll need to be able to prove that the subtenant caused the damage; note that if you both lived there, this may not be easy if it's just your word vs. hers, since it is certainly plausible that the other resident--you--caused some or all of the damage. This is not the typical situation where the space is entirely under the control of the person from whose deposit the landlord wishes to take money.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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