Renting & Law: Dirty carpet leads to deposit dispute

  • Article by: KELLY KLEIN , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 15, 2011 - 5:35 PM

Q I moved out of a rental townhome in Maple Grove on Aug. 5 after being there since November 2009. When I moved in, I signed a six-month lease and paid a deposit of $1,350.

The carpet in the town home was filthy when we moved in. The rental agent told my daughter and I that it had been cleaned. I took pictures of the dirty carpet and told the owner of the townhome that it was still dirty. He said I shouldn't worry about being charged for it when I move out.

When we moved out, a property manager inspected the townhome. I gave her pictures of the dirty spots that were there when we moved in, and she told us she expected the carpet to be clean when tenants move out. She also said she would probably replace the downstairs carpet and clean the upstairs carpet. Both of those areas were dirty when we moved in.

I recently received a check for $1,076, instead of $1,350 (plus interest), and was charged $294 for carpet cleaning.

What recourse do I have?

A Under Minnesota Statute 504B.178, landlords may withhold an amount from the deposit that is necessary to restore the home to its condition at the start of your tenancy. However, they must exclude any ordinary wear and tear from the charge. It may be legal for landlords to require that tenants pay to have a carpet cleaned after they move out, if the carpet cleaning is necessary.

Courts differ on whether carpet cleaning may always be charged, which is why tenants should take pictures of the place on the day they move in and the day they move out. Then tenants have proof if they want to dispute the carpet cleaning charge in court.

Your recourse is to file a claim in Conciliation Court. When you complete the forms and file them in the county where your rental townhome was located, you should include pictures, witness statements and any other proof you have to substantiate a claim for a full refund of your security deposit. The landlord has the burden to prove the reason for withholding part of your deposit.

Property left behind

Q I rented a shop to a guy who sub-rented out stalls. I terminated his lease for nonpayment of rent and evicted him on June 5. He left behind a water scooter and trailer, an off-road Ford Bronco, old tires and old gallons of paint. I had to pay to properly dispose of the paint. I sent him certified letters telling him to remove his property. He has not yet removed it. I would like to sell the water scooter and Bronco so I can be paid for the back rent he owes me. What should I do?

A Under Minnesota Statute 504B.365, a landlord can store, sell or get rid of the property left behind by evicted tenants, as long as the landlord follows certain rules.

A landlord needs to prepare an inventory of the property left behind and mail it to the tenant's last known address. Normally, this is done in the presence of the officer who serves the writ of recovery, so the landlord is protected if the tenant comes back and claims something is missing.

Since you evicted your tenant on June 5 and sent the appropriate certified letters detailing the property left behind and that it should be picked up, you have given your tenant proper notice.

Now that you plan on selling the items left behind, you should make a reasonable effort to notify the tenant of the sale at least 14 days beforehand. This must be done in writing, delivered personally or by first-class, certified mail to the tenant's last known address, and by posting notice of the sale in a conspicuous place on your shop at least two weeks before the sale. If notification by mail is used, the 14-day period starts on the day the notice is mailed.

You may apply a reasonable amount of the proceeds from the sale to the removal, care, storage costs and expenses, or to any claims under Minn. Stat. 504B.178, which includes back rent that is owed to you and any expenses in restoring the property to its original condition, excluding ordinary wear and tear. If there is any money left over, it must be paid to the tenant if there is a written demand for it.

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 kklein@kleinpa.com, or write to Kelly Klein c/o Star Tribune, 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. Information provided by readers is not confidential.

Here are the average rents and vacancy rates for rental housing floor plans in the Twin Cities and surrounding areas. The information is provided by Marquette Advisors' second quarter review of rental properties containing 106,986 apartment units. Information is through June.

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