Can a landlord deduct labor costs from a damage deposit?

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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

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 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.


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