Landlord's Guide to Setting the Life of a Carpet

One of the most common places for landlord/tenant litigation is over the cost of replacing a carpet.

Many leases will state that a tenant is responsible for the full cost of any replacement when damage has occurred, but this is actually considered an illegal requirement in many communities.

As a landlord, you can't charge a current tenant for the wear and tear of a carpet from previous tenants.

On the other hand, you've also got to make sure your carpet looks good so a tenant will want to rent your place, right?

How do you find the best place between these two problems?

Even the Best Carpets Last About 10 Years

It's a frustrating situation for sure when you encounter a tenant that has killed off the carpet in your unit.

When this was new carpet that was freshly installed, you've got a few options available to you so that you can get a majority of your investment back.

If the carpet is older, especially if it is over 10 years old, you're likely going to be paying for the replacement cost out of pocket.

The problem is the depreciation of the carpet. Whether you're claiming it on your taxes or not, the carpet in every home has a certain shelf life to it.

The best carpets last about 10 years, which means anything beyond that is something that falls outside of tenant responsibility.

If the carpets need to be cleaned or there's damage to the subfloor, which is definitely a tenant responsibility if it can be proven they neglected the care of the floor.

If it's just old and needs replacing, even with damage, a mediator will almost always rule in favor of the tenant.

For the cheaper carpets that are typically installed in a rental unit, their maximum life span is rated at 5 years.

Even though you can claim a depreciation on taxes for up to 7 years in most circumstances, a 5 year carpet that needs to be replaced in year 6 because there is ground-in dirt is going to come out of your pocket instead of your tenant's.

What Is Reasonable Wear and Tear?

One of the toughest calls to make as a landlord is to determine what normal wear and tear means for your current tenants.

A family with four kids is going to have a different standard of “normal” than someone living by themselves!

Add pets into the mix and you've got another set of standards! Here's a few things to look at:

1. Damage. If there are rips, tears, or even folds in the carpet that are not related to the age of it, then this is not reasonable wear and tear.

2. Stains. Traffic stains are often considered normal wear and tear because they are indicative of walking patterns.

Those coffee or wine stains? That's a different story.

3. Discoloration. Is your carpet fading because the sun hits the same spot on it every day?

That's normal wear and tear. Is it discolored because a tenant used the wrong cleaning product on it? That's damage.

By taking this information into consideration, you'll protect yourself and your investment in a much better way.

Posted on May 16, 2014


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