If you are like the average landlord or property management company in California, you probably charge each new tenant a security deposit before they move in. Typically, the deposit is used to cover the costs of any damage the tenant does. This leads to a big question is what constitutes actual damage and what is simply wear and tear and who should pay for it. In most cases, this question tends to only come up when a tenant moves out and wants their deposit back.
What California Law Says
According to California law, a tenant is responsible for leaving the property in the same condition it was in on the day they moved in. The same law says that if the tenant fails to do so, you as the landlord or property manager have the right to use part or all of the tenant’s security deposit to cover the cost of having the unit cleaned by a professional service.
Continuing along the same lines, under California law, the landlord can also use part or all of the tenant’s deposit to cover the cost of repairing any damage. This includes carpet damage, providing that damage is not considered to be “normal wear and tear”. Damage to the carpet you can charge a tenant for includes, rips, tear, ground in stains, pet stains, fleas, extreme amounts of dirt, and any damage to the subfloor.
What Is Considered Normal Wear and Tear
With this in mind, what exactly does California law consider to be normal wear and tear? The rules here are pretty simple. Normal wear and tear you as the landlord or property cannot charge your tenants for includes normal aging, wear that naturally occurs over time as a result of usage, and any marks their furniture has left behind. Under this rule, you cannot charge your tenants for this type of damage or withhold returning their security deposit. Unfortunately, in this particular instance, the financial responsibility falls on you if you decide to replace the carpet.
If a tenant has damaged the carpet in their unit to the point where it will need to be replaced, any charges to your tenant must be prorated. To better understand this, consider this scenario. The carpet in your rental has a ten-year warranty, but it is only 5 years into its lifespan when your tenant damages it to the point of needing to be replaced. Your tenant is only required by law to pay you for the remaining expected lifespan.
To put this into numbers, if the carpet you installed in the rental unit cost you $2000.00 when you installed it and carried a 10-year warranty, it will depreciate in value by $200.00 each year. So, if your tenant has been in the unit for 5 years, the math would look like this: 5 x $200.00 = $1000.00. In this situation, you can legally bill your tenant for the remaining 5 years of expected life, which means you can bill them for only $1000.00 of the total cost of the new carpet.