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Tenant wants to sue at small claim court for deduction of security deposit. How to prepare

Chicago, IL |

We deducted 1070 out of 1350 deposit. One item was for professional carpet cleaning, -- the lease says surrender premise in thoroughly clean condition. Can we do that in Ohio? There are still 3 urine, 1 tape, many tiny-small cosmetics, some food, beverage stains remaining on the carpet. It was in very good/good condition at the moving, although we, the owner do not know when it was last replaced. Know it had at least 8 years of use, remained in good shape due to care. Do we need to provide something to justify our 300 dollar deduction, which we feel might be an appropriate number? I got before and after pictures, but how to put a number on such a damage? If we are found to lose the case, say need to refund 100 dollars more to tenant, do we need to pay his attorney fee and court cost?

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Attorney answers 3


You’ll want to show evidence of damage. Invoices showing repair costs. Your lease agreement, in particular the provisions related to Security Deposits, cleaning, normal wear and tear etc., and any other documents associated with the tenancy.

You need to ensure your lease provisions and your claims fall within Ohio's landlord tenant laws (see and that you properly handled the security deposit during the time the tenant’s money was held. You MAY have to pay tenants costs and damages if you violated the law. Smart money says you chat with a Columbus area landlord tenant attorney and determine if it’s in your interests to defend yourself against the tenant, or settle with him/her.

READ THIS BEFORE CALLING OR EMAILING ME: I am licensed to practice before the state and federal courts in Virginia. We have not established an attorney-client relationship unless we have a signed representation agreement and you have paid me. I do five my 100% effort to get you on the right track with your issue. Sometimes that means legal educational information, sometimes that means counseling and non-legal guidance. You should speak with an attorney to whom you have provided all the facts, before you take steps that may impact your legal rights. I am not obligated to answer subsequent emails or phone calls unless you have hired me. I wish you the best of luck with your situation.


Attorney Rafter is correct. Further, if the court finds that you have wrongfully withheld any portion of the security deposit the tenant will be entitled to double damages, plus reasonable attorney fees. So in your case, if the court finds that the entire carpet cleaning deduction was wrongfully withheld you will be liable for $600 ($300 x 2) plus any reasonable attorney fees and court costs.

You can't simply deduct what you "feel is reasonable." You have to provide evidence to support the amount deducted. In addition, all deductions have to be itemized and provided to the tenant within 30 days of receiving notice of their forwarding address or termination of the lease (whichever is later).

You should consult with a local landlord/tenant lawyer. Not only will it help in this case, but you can go over the process for all future tenants so no mistakes are made in the future.

Good Luck,

Andrew A. Esposito

Mr. Esposito is a Ohio-licensed attorney only. The information is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation. Answering this question does not in any way constitute legal representation. Contacting Andrew Esposito does not constitute legal representation, nor is any information you provide protected by attorney-client privilege until otherwise advised.


i agree with my colleagues but will take it one step further

most courts will NOT allow for carpet cleaning no matter
falls under category of normal wear and tear
whether just dirty or urine does not matter
Landlords always clean carpet and paint before new tenants
therefore not a deduction

forget about very good condition
forget about remaining life of carpet
you are now renting
fair condition is the best the court will allow
dirt is not damage
only real damage counts

you can contact a local landlord/tenant lawyer
but i think your money is better spent returning most of the deposit
contact Tenant and negotiate nicely

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