My roommate and I are about to graduate college and we’re going to be moving out of the place we’ve been living the past two years. We know when we move out we’re supposed to clean everything and try to make it look like it did when we first moved in, and that’s no problem. The carpet, though, is pretty nasty. There are a few wine stains here and there, and it’s really worn and dingy in the hallway and near the front door. Can our landlord charge us to clean the carpets?
Full Question and Answer
Generally speaking, the cost for any cleaning that falls under the somewhat vague category of “ordinary wear and tear” has to come out of the landlord’s pocket, not yours. But as you could probably guess, what is and is not ordinary wear and tear depends on how hard you party and how anal your landlord is. Obviously, a family with little kids will leave a place more worn and torn, so to speak, than a single adult who has a steady job in a cubicle farm, eats out every night, and does nothing in his apartment but watch TV and sleep.
You and your roommate fall somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, but don’t expect your landlord to cut you slack just because you’re college students—“kids will be kids” typically only applies to actual children. Dingy and worn carpet in high-traffic areas, especially after two years? That comes with the territory and would be expected… but stains are a different beast altogether. If you have merlot stains on the carpet, that means someone spilled that wine and it wasn’t cleaned up right away (try pouring white wine on it next time and soak it up—this actually works!). No matter how “ordinary” that may be in the apartments of anyone you know, that’s not really considered normal wear and tear, and your landlord will probably make you foot the bill for cleaning. After all, you or one of your clumsy friends committed the party foul in the first place, and it was your responsibility to clean it up before the stain set.
Since you and your roommate have been there two years, there’s a chance your landlord may want to replace the carpet anyway, especially if it wasn’t new when you moved in. If the carpet’s been there for several years and the landlord planned on replacing it, he’d have to be a real d-bag to try and charge you for something he’s just going to rip up anyway. Additionally, if your landlord would have cleaned the carpet to prepare for new tenants even if it was spotless, he can’t charge you for that either. Landlords typically aren’t allowed to deduct for routine cleaning.
If you’re worried about it, ask your landlord to come and check out the carpet before you move. He’ll tell you if it’s something that you’ll be on the hook for if you leave it as is. If you can clean it yourself for less money than he would charge you to have a professional come and do it, then consider renting a shampooing machine or investing in a bottle of OxiClean and put some elbow grease into those stains. Let your landlord know you’re going to try to tackle the stains and have him come back and look at it after the cleaning is done—and recognize if you go that route, you run the risk the landlord still won’t be satisfied and you’ll end up paying for carpet cleaning twice, which would suck.