We recently moved out of our apartment to a new apartment complex within the same town few miles away. Though we made sure the apartment was left clean, we did not vaccum clean it. There were no stains/spots on carpet except in entrance area of apartment. These minor spots were due to movers moving out stuff when we moved out. Other than that there was a small (approx 1cm in size) black ink spot in our bedroom closet (not the bedroom itself). All of these could be easily cleaned, if at all required by a professional cleaner. As we maintained our apartment pretty clean all during our stay we didn't get professional cleaners to make it squeaky clean. After we left, the landlord replaced the carpet without informing us and sent us the bill for carpet replacement and notice of intent to use the security deposit towards partial payment of the charges. I sent back an objection letter to witholding the security deposit and also objected to the carpet charges. If there was a problem the landlord could have informed us and we could have taken care of it using professional cleaners. Now the landlord says they called professional cleaners and they couldn't clean the spots. And on his suggestion replaced the carpet. When i objected to the charges, the landlord sent us two photos of the entrance area spots and the small black spot in the closet as proof. Their maintenance guy says that all apartment carpet was dirty and regions where furniture was placed has different color than other areas. So they changed the carpet. But they don't have any other pictures to show as evidence, just the two pictures mentioned above. Isn't this normal wear and tear of the carpet and once professionals clean it, it should look normal again. Also shouldn't the landlord inform us about the problem and ask us to correct it . Since we didn't see any such problem we didn't even bother about these small trivial spots which were certainly not so much as to warrant carpet replacement. Moreover we also observed that whenever a neighboring tenant left the apartment, the landlord replaced the carpet (as we saw carpet guys taking it out). So this seems to be more of a norm for this landlord to change carpets at will and bill the ex-tenant for it. My question to the legal gurus is to please advise us what we should do in this case as we feel cheated and these charges are not justified.
Landlord / Tenant Lawyer
It appears that you have done the right thing so far in responding in writing with an objection to the charges. If you have pictures from your move out, that could be helpful if you have to prove to a judge that the carpet did not have to be replaced. You should take all the documents to a landlord-tenant attorney to determine whether your objection was done properly and if the landlord followed procedure. If you hire an attorney and you are able to recover your security deposit, the landlord may have to pay for your attorney's fees also.
Landlord / Tenant Lawyer
A carpet generally has a 5-yr lifespan, and if it has to be replaced, the landlord should pro-rate based on how old the carpet is. It's similar to having to repaint the walls. How long were you a tenant at this place and do you know how old the carpet is?
Assuming you filed your objection to the landlord's claim against your security deposit in accordance with F.S. 83.49(3), and you believe strongly that the charges assessed are incorrect or unjustified, you would need to file a small claims action (assuming the damages are $5K or less) for the court to adjudicate who is entitled to the deposit funds. However, first I would try to work it out with the landlord to see if you can come to a mutual agreement. If not, then one of you needs to file an action with the court to see who is to get all or part of the funds.
If you think the landlord has a practice of taking advantage of tenants, I would get with an attorney to discuss first before filing. A properly worded letter from an attorney to the landlord on what is about to happen might get the landlord to just drop the matter and return all of your funds. Just the mere threat that you are going to request to review all tenant files from the landlord going back 3 yrs is enough of a deterrent to drop the matter and return your deposit.