Just Got Our House Back from Tennant-need Advice!

Updated on June 03, 2014
J.T. asks from Alexander, AR
31 answers

Ok, I realize there is a wide range of opinion about definition of clean. My renter was not happy about us needing our new home back and not renewing our contract. They are early 50's, have three children, a dog and two cats. Before they moved in, we spent $$ having all the floors done and the home professionally cleaned. I didn't charge them for that, but I did tell her that the carpets would need to be done when they moved out. She agreed. Well, last week she text and says that the appointment has been made to have the house cleaned and the carpets done. A few days later, she text again asking if I was sure I wanted them cleaned because I had a flooring guy come over to measure to do an estimate on hardwoods when we found out we were returning. We decided to wait on them, so I told her yes we needed them done. Today I arrive to do the final inspection, and the house was gross, filthy. I can see that she attempted to clean, but by no means do I think it was done professionally. The floors weren't even vaccumed, but she swears they got shampooed? I have asked for a receipt from a carpet cleaning company and so far I haven't gotten one. The toilets and bath tubs were also skipped entirely. I will save the details, but now I have an issue with adult urine smell in the shower/bath enclosures. What can I do to get this smell out? Also notice a pungent cat urine odor coming from the garage, so I need advice on cleaning a garage floor also. Finally, she either flat lied about the carpet or the person she paid did nothing. Should I just deduct the shampooing from her deposit and send a receipt? I already know that we are stuck cleaning everything else, (so far 6 hrs) but I don't think I should have to pay again for carpet cleaning! My carpets were newer, and now they have blue ink stains and pet stains!

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

I called her on it after I spent last night and all day today cleaning this nasty, filthy house. I am surprised we aren't riddled with roaches. This is not a run of the mill rental, it is my dream home that I rented bc we were returning someday soon. They passed all the screenings, they have a home with renters (she is Lt. Col.), they are older-we thought it would be an easy rental. They promised to care for it well bc my home showed prideful ownership. I am upset because I was lied to, on several instances. We returned here to retire, not just live here. The dishwasher is ruined. The smell of rancid carrots, meat, and cabbage in the bottom of the drain smelled up the entire house when I had to dig it out. The holes where the water comes in were completely clogged with food. The bathtub had urine, feces on the wall, blood, and so much pubic hair, I thought I was going to be ill. They raked broken glass and more old food under my fridge and stove and there was so much cat hair, I could have made a sweater. Nail polish, ink, stains from pets. Huge gouges in the wall merely painted over. My cream colored blinds are black from unknown soot. The air conditioner had so much dust and pet hair, it was clogged. Never replaced in the 10 months of them living here. I initialed the filter before I left. She even took my trash cans and then wrapped her throw rug around my mailbox and busted up our sons basketball goal. My house literally looked like a repo. I am angry, sore and exhausted. It's going to cost $500 just to fix my flower beds. You can't even tell what they were.

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answers from San Francisco on

Keep whatever portion of the deposit you need to fix everything.

It's scary how some people live. I wouldn't want to be a landlord.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Judge Judy airs stuff like this regularly. See if you can google an episode by theme. Good luck. I work out of the area long term and am thinking of renting my townhome, but I wonder if the headache is even worth it.

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Reading on

Personally, I would have hired a cleaning crew and kept that cost from the security deposit as well as the carpet cleaner if they can't produce a bill. You do have a security deposit, don't you?

13 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

if your lease spells out what needs to be done when they move out, you are perfectly within your rights to pay to have those things cleaned and deduct them from the deposit. a copy of the receipt is fine to give them- keep the originals for your records.
some wear and tear is to be expected. i wouldn't charge them for painting, for example. take pictures of any filth or damage.
how long did they live there? did you really rent to people with a dog and 2 cats, and NOT have a pet deposit?
but did you really just *tell* her when they moved in that she'd have to clean the carpets? if so you may be screwed. you have GOT to get things in writing.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Follow the terms of your lease and act accordingly.

Our leases stipulate that our tenants must have the carpets professionally cleaned, and must provide us with a receipt within 7 days of moving out, or we will have them cleaned and deduct the amount from their security deposit.

We also require the walls, appliances, etc to be cleaned to the same level of cleanliness with which we left it for them--we have pictures documenting the move-in condition, and they signed off on them.

For any property where we have pets living there, we require an additional pet deposit.

For your garage floor I'd hose it all down, and then get a solution of dish soap and ammonia and spread it around, and use a big hard-bristled push broom to scrub the floor, and hose it down again.

Your best bet is ALWAYS documenting the move-in condition and having them initial it. I hope you have some supporting documentation to back you up, or you'll probably have no recourse.

ETA: It is horrifying that they were able to incur so much damage in just 10 months. I guess I should check on my properties more frequently--maybe every 2 months for the first 6 months of a lease, and then quarterly afterward. I'm so sorry you have to deal with this. Don't return a penny of their deposit, but document everything you have noted.

Did you do a move-in walk-thru/checklist? I pray you did.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

One apartment company my daughter rented from (while in college) spelled out exactly how much would be charged to clean each little item... baseboards, above the doors, etc. etc. etc.....

needless to say, we went through her apartment with a fine tooth comb, checking off each item as we cleaned it! (And yes, she got the full deposit back.....)

In the future, you may want to specify EXACTLY how you want the apartment cleaned, and have it in writing, as someone else suggested.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Buffalo on

all you can do is keep their deposit if they had one.

to clean out urine...you need to soak the area in natures miracle. I've also used bleach on concrete which helps after it sinks in.

for showers, I would suggest making a past of Comet cleanser (the green kind that has "with bleach" on the label) Let a wet paste of cleanser sit on the area overnight, then scrub and rinse.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Lakeland on

If it is in your lease about cleaning after they move out you can keep the deposit. You can probably deduct the costs since you did have a verbal agreement with them. Pet urine and ink stains are NOT normal wear and tear and you can deduct from the deposit to clean them.

I have had many tenants leave my proprieties like that and they seem to think that they are clean. Everyone has a different view on what's clean.

Pick up some enzyme urine cleaner form the pet store (they make it for cats or dogs) and use it in the entire home (including the showers). You can also put out bowls of baking soda to absorb the odors.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

It depends on how your lease reads.... but... If it were me, I would not refund ANY of the security deposit.

I understand there are different views on cleanliness but my goodness, adult urine odor in shower and garage, pet and ink stains... Unacceptable in my book.

I use the liquid Comet (white bottle with Green label BATHROOM CLEANER). I LOVE this stuff. I spray my glass shower weekly, close the door and leave it til the morning and there are no stains whatsoever. Of course, in your case if someone has not tried to clean, it will take more sweat equity to get it clean.

I like to use Clorox bleach as well and I would probably use that in the garage area. It stinks but it kills germs.

Did you have pictures before they moved in? If so, you have your proof, especially if they try to take you to small claims to get their deposit back.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Tell your tenet that the house isn't being returned in the rented condition taking into account wear and tear. Tell her to get you a copy of the cleaning receipt asap or you'll hire a cleaning company to come in and do the cleaning and carpets and take the money out of their deposit. Then hire someone to do the cleaning and carpets and send the balance of the deposit minus the cleaning (supplying them with a copy of the receipts) and a letter explaining what was removed from the deposit.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

How long did they live there? In our area, it's common for landlords to depreciate new items in the home. For instance, they would expect to re-paint the interior every 3 years, they would expect carpet to have a life span of 6 years, window blinds would last for 10 years, and so on. So, if the walls were smudgy and had marks on them, but they had lived there for 4 years, you wouldn't charge them for re-painting. If they had only lived there for 1 year, you would charge them for 2/3 of the painting (because they trashed the paint in 1/3 of the normal depreciation time). Same with carpet (if you needed to replace it after they had lived there for 3 years, they'd pay half, since the normal depreciation is 6 years).

If they did not clean the carpet (the carpet is basically okay, just dirty), hire your own carpet cleaning company and deduct that amount from their deposit. Also, hire a professional cleaning company and have them clean the house. Deduct that amount from the deposit also. When you return whatever is left of the deposit, you will need to detail the amounts you deducted, and provide receipts. Really, it is what it is. If they wanted their whole deposit back, they would have had these things done and provided you with the receipts.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Colorado Springs on

A lot of the answers to your questions depend on the lease contract. If it isn't down in black and white, there may not be much you can do.

Nature's Miracle may work on the garage floor. See if you can borrow a black light from somebody to check whether you need to use it anywhere on the garage walls, too.

Ah, the joys of being a landlord... I don't think.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

What was in your lease agreement? Was it in writing that they must clean and shampoo/clean the carpets? if not? there's not much you can do with this tenant.

For the next tenant? Have EVERYTHING spelled out in the contract.
Deposit - what is expected to get it back.
Final Check out - what is expected to be done.
I would take pictures (with a date enabled) of the place when you rent it out - flooring, cabinetry, walls, etc. and then do a walk through and take pictures...

You also need to check the Maryland laws on what you can and cannot do or charge...normal wear and tear, etc.

To get the urine smell out of the garage? Vinegar and water...DO NOT use ammonia or clorox - you will create a breathing problem. I would go to Costco and get the large bottle of Vinegar, get a bucket and do the whole bottle of vinegar and add 1/3 water...then use a mop to wash the floor.

Maybe I'm reading it wrong, you were talking with your tenant about replacing flooring? I'm a hardwood floor lover myself. So I would just get rid of it. Keep their deposit (take pictures of course) and put in the new flooring.

For the urine smell in bathroom? Do you have the toilet bowl properly seeded?? If not - the caulking or seal might be broken. You might have to remove the toilet and re-do the seal.

If it's elsewhere in the bathroom? Bleach.

Good luck!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

It really depends on what was in the lease beforehand. Usually the owner/landlord is responsible for the big stuff like carpet cleaning and painting and flooring, and the tenant is responsible for a final vacuum and sweeping. But it sounds like they were made at you, and either they are not too clean to start with, or they left you a problem on purpose.

All you can do is take pictures of how it was left, and then deduct the costs from the security deposit. Baking soda or white vinegar are great cleaners and odor cutters. Adult urine is not going to continue to smell. For cat urine, you can get something from the pet store if a vinegar wash doesn't do it. If it's in the garage, it depends on whether it has sunk into the cement floor - but again, vinegar and a good hosing should take care of it.

You can google how to get rid of ink stains but I think you can only bill her for cleaning, not for carpet replacement. Some wear and tear is expected on any home, and it would have that if you lived there as well as if a tenant lived there.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

When my SIL and BIL moved out of their rental in a hurry (she went into labor early and while she was in the hospital with the new baby he literally threw everything in boxes and moved them out ) the management company was not happy about the condition of the apartment. They gave them 3 days to fix all the things they found wrong and after that they used the security deposit AND charged them an extra $2000 for repairs and cleaning. My SIL was stunned that they could do this but apparently it was in the lease somewhere. I'm not sure what is in your lease but maybe you could go this route. Not being a professional company, I am not sure if you could force them to pay without going to small claims court, but it is worth a try. I hope you video taped and documented everything.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

That sucks... What exactly was spelled out in the lease agreement? You might be able to deduct from the security deposit for that. Otherwise, you might be stuck. If she actually does provide a receipt showing the cleaning, she might have just hired a crappy company.

Frankly, I think it is likely that you will spend much more money trying to get the renters to pay for cleaning. Just suck it up and pay to have everything professionally cleaned to your standards. If you can get some money back from her, great... If not, it is probably not worth the hassle if your beef is just cleaning. It would be a bit different if your home was completely destroyed and broken...

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

What does your lease stipulate?

Did you collect a house cleaning fee and a pet deposit? If so, use that money to professionally clean and deodorize.

We always charge a non-refundable housecleaning fee and non-refundable pet deposit if there are pets. We advertise no pets, but are lenient if the people ask about it.

Our tenant just moved out yesterday. We paid $1000 to have the travertine floors professionally cleaned and sealed, plus the entire house professionally cleaned before this one moved, and now she's claiming that the house was super dirty. Go figure.

The standard is that she either cleans it to inhabitable levels or provides receipts for a professional cleaning service. The most you can reasonably retain from the deposits would be $$ to cover the pet odors.

You can't charge for normal wear and tear, regardless of how new your carpets were. You can pay the carpet cleaner extra to spot clean though and deduct that.

And you likely have only 2 weeks to reimburse her.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

When I've rented my total deposit was only returned when I left the apartment as clean as it was when I rented it. I would not return the deposit. Sounds like the damages are greater than what are normal. Depending, of course, on how long they lived there. I suggest you could document the damage and sue in Small Claims Court. You could ask about this at the county landlord/tenant office.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

I would keep what you need to from the deposit, and use it to hire a professional to clean.

After reading your "so what happened" I had to make a change to my response. I understand being mad about the general cleanliness and filth, and that needs addressed, but you can not expect a renter to maintain your flowers just as you want them ect. And we, as the home owners, usually only replace the filters in our heat/ac once a year. Some of this stuff seems rather petty. You can only charge her for cleaning and items she broke (dishwashers do wear out, ect) but not for redoing your flower beds and the like.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I hope you documented everything. If the house failed the walk through inspection, they don't get their deposit back. Check your lease to see what recourse you have.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

Some of this is intentional vandalism not just negligence. The blood and basketball goal, mailbox. Get a police report and file a claim against her renter's insurance!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

If she's military, then I would contact her commanding officer and provide pics. Military does not like their people to behave that way. You will probably get further with the commanding officer than with the court and it will definitely be faster!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Hi, Mom of 1:
I sympathize with you. One of the things many people need to realize: Many Renters do not take personal responsibility of what they are stewards of.

We are all stewards of what God has allowed us to use. Many people do not believe that they need to keep things beautiful and clean.

Advice: Suck it up. Use it as a learning experience. Pay for it. Take the expenses off your income taxes if you can.

I understand how you must feel. I've been there too.


2 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

I've always seen a difference in the deposit's I've had to pay.

A security deposit wasn't a cleaning deposit. A security deposit is in case they move out and don't pay that last month's rent. Damages that cost a repair bill.

A cleaning deposit is for cleaning.

I will say this though. In an apartment situation the owners/managers expect to go into a recently evacuated rental unit and paint, clean the carpets, and more. It's expected and not part of the deposit.

Wear and tear on a place is normal usage. If they came in and painted the walls orange, took out walls, left holes in the sheet rock, etc....that's stuff that I would consider abnormal. I'd expect to come in and clean. That's something I've never ever ever had to pay the owner to do.

My friend in OKC works for a property management company. She is their house cleaner. If they have to come in and do more than 2 days of cleaning then there is an issue with the condition. She says it takes her about 4 hours to clean the kitchen, that's not including the oven that's another hour if it has to be done, an hour to do each bathroom, and she doesn't clean the walls unless there is goo on them, the painter simply paints over it. She says when she's done the rooms look brand new. Most of what she does is not charged to the renters. It's normal wear and tear.

I know some people expect perfection and to be able to walk in with it perfect but really. It's a rental and as such, I think normal wear and tear on a place is on you to some extent.

Pay a company to come in and professionally clean it. That sounds like the only way you'll be happy. Once that company is done you'll be able to see what damage is left. That is what I would consider taking them to court over. Ink stains are not normal. If your lease said no pets then the cat odor is a problem.

Our bathroom was used for a cat bathroom. We cleaned it and after a few weeks it didn't smell anymore. The people that bought our house didn't know that bathroom was where the little box was.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Richland on

With a lease you can't say anything. The lease must always be modified and signed. So what does your lease say?

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

Do NOT let her stick you with the bill to clean the carpets. You have the right to charge against their deposit for replacing the carpet in the room with blue ink stains. All you have to do is attach a copy of an estimate of how much that will cost in your area.

You also should charge her for not cleaning your house properly. You could hire someone to clean the bathroom and garage floor and that should be assessed against her too.

I hope someone else can give you some cleaning ideas...

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Did you have a lease that she signed? If so was the carpet cleaning and house cleaning at move out stated in the lease. Of so you can charge for both out of her deposit. Just include recirpts from your cleaning companies. Also deduct any damages out of deposit. If you didn't have a lease including the condition they would leave the house it will be harder toget the $.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

My mother is the maintenance manager of a Property Management Company. Needless to say, I've picked up a few extra bucks cleaning her vacant properties when the tenants move out. The deduct everything they have to do from the deposit check, some renters never see anything back on their deposit. They have to have receipts for carpets being done or else she charges them for her guys to clean them, as well as us her cleaning companies. Most of the time with pet urine, she has to pull the whole carpets up and replace them, and she does have a really good carpet guy that doesn't just says to do it because he wants more money.
The house should look the same as well they moved in, with little wear and tear but if they lived there for only 10 months hardly anything should be damaged.
Sorry you are going through it. I agree and document and take pictures.


My mother is the maintenance manager of a Property Management Company. Needless to say, I've picked up a few extra bucks cleaning her vacant properties when the tenants move out. The deduct everything they have to do from the deposit check, some renters never see anything back on their deposit. They have to have receipts for carpets being done or else she charges them for her guys to clean them, as well as us her cleaning companies. Most of the time with pet urine, she has to pull the whole carpets up and replace them, and she does have a really good carpet guy that doesn't just says to do it because he wants more money.
The house should look the same as well they moved in, with little wear and tear but if they lived there for only 10 months hardly anything should be damaged.
Sorry you are going through it. I agree and document and take pictures.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Document,document, document. Take pictures of EVERYTHING. And I mean EVERYTHING. (Hopefully you have pics of what the house looked like on move in day, so you can show a comparison.) ANd know the laws for your area. Normal wear and tear is acceptable and here in Texas allowed by law. So if the carpets are dirty because of normal wear and tear, you can't charge her for that. If they are beyond filthy because of negligence or animals, you can charge for that. I hope this makes sense. But you need to document everything to prove it if it goes to court and she presses you for things.

A walk through should have been completed, preferably with the tenant present. The tenant should sign off on the walk through too. And we usually give tenants an opportunity to make repairs if they choose. About half the time we are taken up on the offer.

We usually take these kinds of expenses out of security deposits. A few times the costs have gone beyond the deposits, but only in one case were we reimbursed for the costs. We could have pushed and gone to court, but we ultimately decided it wasn't worth the extra effort and cost to us. We realize this is the gamble we take with owning a rental property. It's just the cost of doing business to us. At one time I took it personally, but now I see it as a business.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Pictures are important of how she left your place, especially if you need to go to court to have the balance of the damages remedied.

In my state the security deposit can be used for out of the ordinary extreme cleaning and repairs. Keep your receipts and your pics.

You could take them to court but you would need a current address for them.

I've been in your shoes several times with the various rental properties over the years. I just don't understand why people would leave the space in a shambles to that degree. As a tenant I never left a space destroyed like that.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Cumberland on

Cats? Have the house professionally clean and sanitized. keep the receipts for the work you have done-and deduct it from her security deposit-I would replace the damaged carpeting-and charge for that, as well.

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