Can a landlord require use of an approved cleaning company and keep the security deposit if you don’t?

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Can a landlord require use of an approved cleaning company and keep the security deposit if you don’t?

After I gave notice of move out, my landlord sent me a letter with a list of people that do carpet cleaning. I called them, but the numbers supplied were personal cell phones and not actual companies. Therefore I hired a professional local carpet cleaning company to do the job. The carpets were very clean and I paid about $150 for stain removal and heavy duty cleaning to make sure they looked good. They weren’t very clean when we moved in (as noted on inventory form) and actually looked better after we left. However, landlord kept part of my deposit because we didn’t use the “approved” vendor.

Asked on December 22, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Virginia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

As a general matter, a tenant is NOT responsible for carpet cleaning unless his/her lease provides that he or she is--or the tenant (or the tenant's guests, family, pets, etc.) created some unusual or extreme stains, like pet urine or red wine stains. However, if it was just regular wear and tear and the lease did not require carpet cleaning when you moved out, you were under no obligation to clean the carpet and should get your deposit.

If there were extreme stains, then the only requirement is to remove them; if they were removed, then your obligation is discharged and the landlord may not keep your deposit.

Only if the lease not only required you to clean the carpet but required you to use approved vendors could the landlord keep part of your deposit for not using the approved vendor--in that case, the requirements of the lease as to what you have to do are enforceable.


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