Tenants versus landlord - who pays for what?

Real Estate Agent with Dominion Fine Properties SA582226000

   There have been some great posts on here discussing the tenant/landlord relationship and responsibilities - who pays for what when there's damage.  I look forward to comments on the transaction I'm about to share. 

     Recently, some clients called me about problems they were having with their landlord from whom they had rented for a year while their home sold.  They asked my opinion as to who is responsible for paying for what.   

     The landlord is trying to withhold a substantial amount of money for "damages" done to the property - some real, some imagined, some exaggerated.  The "damages" range from hot glue on the carpet (obvious damage) to tape on the walls which pulled away the paint and some of the top coat of plaster (damage.) 

     One of the things the landlord is insisting the tenant pay is for the replacement of the filter in the ornamental fountain in the front yard due to lack of use - $850.  There is supposedly a minor scratch on one of the end tables for which the landlord wants $300 to have refinished.  There were barstools at the kitchen breakfast bar which the landlord states were ruined beyond repair and she wants recovered at the rate of $300/chair - 3 chairs.  It's just the bottom cushion which can easily be recovered with new fabric and a staple gun.  There is a cracked tile on the floor behind the front door which the landlord wants replaced at the rate of $250.   The grout in front of the oven and stove area is slightly dirtier than the rest of the grout in the kitchen because of cooking and will cost over $750 to clean.   

     The clients asked my opinion and I started with the caveat of this is only my opinion, but.......Then, the clients asked if I would put my comments in writing as they plan to go to court to get their money back.  This is where it got interesting.  As I was not party to their previous lease and had not SEEN the extent of the "damage", my "opinion" would be of no value to any one.  I advised him to contact his previous real estate agent - the one who put them into the furnished home - and discuss everything with him.   

     My advice when trying to determine who pays for what in a rental situation is to spell everything out at the time of the lease.  Is it a requirement for the tenant to run the fountain at their expense a minimum of once a week to keep it functioning?  Also, take pictures, pictures, and even more pictures - especially when renting a furnished home.  I don't know if the pictures would help determine who put the scratch in the table or who broke the floor tile in a very obscure area (not the actual photos but internet stock photos), but at least the judge would know due diligence was taken on everyone's part.


     Bottom line, work with an experienced real estate agent who will be there for you BEFORE AND AFTER your transaction. 




Posted by

Juli Vosmik

Dominion Real Estate Partners, LLC



 Scottsdale and Cave Creek Real Estate



Helping you make informed decisions whether buying or selling homes in Scottsdale, Cave Creek and north Phoenix Arizona.  I know the area - I live here.


A portion of all sales is donated to the various animal rescue and humane societies.


AZ license SA582226000





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Michelle Francis
Tim Francis Realty LLC - Atlanta, GA
Realtor, Buckhead Atlanta Homes for Sale & Lease


You've raised a lot of valid points.  We find it makes sense to document as much as possible.  Georgia has a detailed move-in/move-out form, but we also encourage tenants to take pictures AND video of the move-in condition- noting issues that were already there upon move-in.  Hard to be made to pay for those when you have great info to back it up.

Then, some Landlords are crazy.  The value of the item is also less than full retail if it's older.    Say for instance folks ruin carpet after a three year lease, but the carpet was 5 years old when they moved in.  So at this point it's 8 years old.  If the state recognizes carpet as lasting 8 years - it's at the end of it's useful life, so it would be normal wear and tear.  If it was new when they moved in, then they owe the landlord 5/8's of the value of the carpet.  

It's not a total black and white decision, but using good judgemnet and documenting condition helps everyone.

All the best, Michelle

Nov 29, 2011 11:57 AM #1
Ed Silva
RE/MAX Professionals, CT 203-206-0754 - Waterbury, CT
Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally

Juli, the best thing to do is to approach the rental as one would a rental car. You need to go around the car with the rental agent pointing out any visible dings, etc. Likewise with the house go through it with the landlord and video it all, with the landlord's comments. As for the fountain filter, the landlord should have detailed that or take the water out of the fountain.

Nov 29, 2011 02:31 PM #2
Kathleen Daniels
KD Realty - 408.972.1822 - San Jose, CA
San Jose Homes for Sale-Probate & Trust Specialist

Juli,  As you point out ... there is only one side of the equation here.  Asking you to provide expert witness when you were not a party to it is inappropriate, in my opinion. It will be a lesson for them, perhaps a costly one for not having hired an experienced agent who will be there for them before and after the transaction.


Nov 29, 2011 03:07 PM #3
Juli Vosmik
Dominion Fine Properties - Scottsdale, AZ
Scottsdale/Cave Creek, AZ real estate 480-710-0739

Michelle, that's great information.  I had told my client that I didn't think the homeowner would get full value on used furniture and have told my client to have the landlord provide receipts from when she originally purchased the items.  I'll tell my client to check into Arizona laws on that.  He has an attorney on retainer for his other businesses who should easily be able to answer that one.  Thanks for the tip.

Ed, I so agree with you.  When I put him into his current rental, I did just that with over 150 photos including small bumps and bruises on the walls.  I then put it into a file folder and shared the contents with them and the listing agent as well as keeping a copy on my computer, as well. 

Kathleen, since I didn't actually see any of the items and only have his word, I was only able to give him my opinion, which ran along the lines of Michelle comments.  These items are used and I'm fairly sure the judge would only give current value to the items in question, not full, original resale value. 

Nov 30, 2011 02:03 AM #4
Loren Green
Greens Home Design L.L.C. - Buckeye, AZ
Phoenix Home Inspector & Designer

Julie - At those prices I must be in the wrong business.  I know Leslie Dixon at Dixon Interiors.  I am sure she can get those chairs revovered significately cheaper than $300 each.  David Knapp at Oxi-fresh Carpet cleaning can clean that floor grout with his carpet machine for way less than $750.

This and your previous post about the mold behind the refrigerator has prompted me to create a specialized home inspection specifially for renters.  I can document the condition at move in and at move out.  That will eliminate the who done it from the argument.  Do you think it is a good idea?

Nov 30, 2011 10:09 AM #5
Jennifer Fivelsdal
JFIVE Home Realty LLC | 845-758-6842|162 Deer Run Rd Red Hook NY 12571 - Rhinebeck, NY
Mid Hudson Valley real estate connection

Juli you are right everything must be worked out in the agreement.   My advice to renters these days is to video tape the apartment before moving in, I mean everything.

Nov 30, 2011 01:59 PM #6
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Juli Vosmik

Scottsdale/Cave Creek, AZ real estate 480-710-0739
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