Q: We are in the process of vacating our apartment. We hired a cleaning crew, who spilled or did something to the kitchen floor and discolored the tile. We have contacted them, and they have acknowledged that they messed up the flooring. We also have a window screen that is damaged because it blew off the window during a storm. Our landlord is trying to say that we are responsible for it. The landlord also indicated there is a storm window that went missing; however, we don't recall ever seeing it. How should we handle this situation?
A: During your move-out meeting, you should let your landlord know about the damage to your kitchen tile caused by the cleaning crew. You can either pay for the damage and get reimbursed by your cleaning company or have your landlord bill your cleaning company directly. Ask your landlord how he or she wants to handle the repair cost. Also contact your cleaning company and let them know that they are responsible for the damage and that your landlord will be billing them directly or that you will pay for the damage and get reimbursed by the company. If your landlord charges you for the repair, you should send the bill to your cleaning company for reimbursement. If your landlord chooses to bill the cleaning company after repairs are done, you should leave the company's contact information with your landlord before you move out.
Landlords are responsible for windows, screens, doors, roofs and all other building parts, attachments or structures that may be damaged during storms or by an act of God, unless the damage is caused by the tenant's negligence. Let your landlord know that the law requires landlords or owners to cover these types of expenses. Tell your landlord that you did not see the storm window. If you have photos that you took during your move-in, then you can prove it was not there. If your landlord tries to deduct the storm-window expense from your security deposit, you can file a conciliation-court claim to recover those funds. Always try negotiating with your landlord first before filing a conciliation-court claim. If you and your landlord agree on how to handle these three expenses, you should put the agreement in writing and get it signed by both parties.
Kelly Klein is a Minneapolis attorney. Participation in this column does not create an attorney/client relationship with Klein. Do not rely on advice in this column for legal opinions. Consult an attorney regarding your particular issues. E-mail renting questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Kelly Klein c/o Star Tribune, 650 3rd Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. Information provided by readers is not confidential.