Landlord overcharging for damages upon move-out

Dear Consumer Ed:

I moved into an apartment and paid a pet fee since I have a small dog. When it was time to move out, there were a few carpet stains, but they were confined to one room.  I was charged $200 for an overall cleaning of the apartment, plus $1,000 to replace all the carpet in the apartment. Can the apartment complex do that?  When I spoke with them, they said that their carpet is five years old, and when they replace it, they replace all of it, but that I was given a break and charged a discounted rate.  This doesn’t sound right to me. What do you think?  

Consumer Ed says:

According to state laws, your landlord may charge you for any damage to the apartment that is beyond normal wear and tear. “Normal wear and tear” means any slight damages that are the result of the renter using the apartment for its intended purpose. So, in terms of carpet, normal wear and tear usually includes the wearing of the carpet naturally due to regular use, furniture marks, and aging. But if you damage the apartment in any way beyond what is expected for normal wear and tear, like carpet stains from a dog, your landlord may be able to charge you for this kind of damage.

When determining the amount to charge to repair the carpet for damage beyond normal wear and tear, your landlord should take in to consideration the age and/or quality of the carpet when you moved in. If there’s any damage to an older carpet (as in your case), you should be charged a reasonable amount for the actual damage that can be quantified. But, if there is also damage to the carpet padding and subfloor as a result of the pet stains, your landlord may attempt to recover these costs for repair as well.

To determine if what the landlord is charging you is reasonable, you can check with reliable sources in the flooring repair business, and get estimates for carpet of similar make and age to compare to the amount charged by your landlord. If, based on your research, you believe your landlord is overcharging you (or is charging you for wear and tear that you shouldn’t have to pay), you have five business days starting at the end of your lease to specify, in writing, that you don’t think you should have been charged for the carpet, or to contest the amount charged for the carpet. You may also wish to consult an attorney about your situation. For more information about landlord-tenant issues, see the Landlord Tenant Handbook on the Department of Community Affairs’ website (

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