Q When I recently moved out of an apartment, the manager notified me that I would receive my $400 deposit less $45 for carpet cleaning. I was surprised, because I had remembered reading an article stating that carpet cleaning is considered "normal wear and tear" and therefore shouldn't be taken from a deposit.
When I requested a copy of the lease, the manager highlighted the following: "Management may keep all or part of the security deposit (a) for damage to the unit beyond ordinary wear and tear; and (b) for rent or other money owed to management. Residents are charged for carpet cleaning."
On my checkout sheet, the manager wrote, "Apt. left very, very clean! No additional cleaning needed!" Despite this, it seems that by signing the lease, I am left unable to recoup any of the money charged for the carpet cleaning.
Is this true?
Also, I lived in the apartment from September 2008 through January. I understand that I am owed 1 percent simple, non-compounded interest. On a $400 deposit, I was refunded $4.50, but I'm owed $9.33. Am I miscalculating?
I realize that this is small change and likely not worth the hassle of trying to recoup. However, if the apartment complex is wrongfully refunding thousands of residents and charging for carpet cleaning, its profits are likely adding up quickly and it would be unfair to all the tenants.
A Minnesota statute 504B.178 states that a landlord may withhold from the deposit any amounts necessary to restore the premises to its condition at the start of the tenancy, excluding ordinary wear and tear. Landlords often are well within their rights to require that tenants pay to have a carpet cleaned after they move from the premises, if the cleaning is necessary. However, some tenants leave the unit in better condition when they move. That's why most courts believe that requiring carpet cleaning of all tenants is not authorized by the statute, and they reject such a requirement.
You should know that some courts do believe it is appropriate to require cleaning in all circumstances, so this is not a slam dunk. Your only recourse, unfortunately, is to pursue the matter in court. Conciliation court is set up for small claims, so you should go to the county where you lived and obtain the necessary forms.
As to the interest, you are correct on the math. If you lived in the unit for about 28 months, it should be $9.33. You might want to put that into your claim, as well.
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, 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. Information provided by readers is not confidential.