Can a Landlord Charge Me for New Carpet & New Paint When I Lived There for 10 Years?

When the landlord installs new carpet, she usually pays for it.

When the landlord installs new carpet, she usually pays for it.

In every state but Arkansas, the law requires landlords keep rentals habitable -- fit for people to live in. Under the habitability rules, it's the landlord's financial responsibility to maintain the apartment, even if the lease says otherwise. Unless you're responsible for serious damage, new carpet and paint shouldn't come out of your bank account.

Repair Responsibilities

Under the habitability rules, if you have peeling lead paint on the walls or carpet so frayed you risk tripping on it, the landlord is obligated to replace it. If the paint or flooring is just faded and ugly, the landlord is probably off the hook. When she does replace it, she's the one who should assume the cost. The exception is if you've done something destructive, such as setting the carpet on fire. In that case, you may indeed have to pay for the replacement.

Wear and Tear

After 10 years, the apartment probably doesn't look as shiny as when you moved in. Even if you take care of everything, carpets and paint are bound to wear down and fade in the course of a decade. You do not have to pay for repainting or recarpeting if the only problem is age, and the landlord can't take it out of your security deposit when you move. He can withhold the deposit if you've damaged his property, but not if the real culprit is time.

Precautions

The difference between wear and tear and significant damage can be subjective. To protect yourself against disputes, take photographs of the apartment when you move in. If you have proof that those ugly stains were on the walls before you moved in, your landlord can't blame them on you. To protect your damage deposit, take photos when you move out, in case your landlord blames you for more destruction than you may have caused.

Fighting Back

If your landlord insists that you pay for a paint job when it should be his responsibility, tell him, in writing, why you're not required to pay. If he threatens eviction, propose going to a mediator or arbitrator, or complain to your city's local housing agency. After you move out, if your landlord refuses to return all or part of your security deposit by the legal deadline, sue him in small claims court.

About the Author

Author of two film reference books, "Cyborgs, Santa Claus and Satan" and "The Wizard of Oz Catalog." Published in Air & Space, Backpacker, Newsweek, The Writer, and multiple trade journals (can fax samples if requested, don't have them available digitally)

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