CARPET DAMAGE AND PRORATIONS
The simple question of how much to charge the resident for carpet damage is often more complex than it appears. Straightforward legal principles become muddied when they have to be applied to real-life situations.
Simple Legal Principles
The legal principles are simple. The manager should use the least expensive, practical method to replace or repair. This is known in legal jargon as mitigating your damages. If it’s possible to remove a stain from the carpet, the manager should remove the stain rather than replace the carpet. If the carpet has a small tear that can be repaired, then the manager should repair rather than replace the whole carpet.
When the manager must replace the carpet, he should not upgrade at the resident’s expense. He should replace with an equivalent grade. If the same grade is not available, then carpeting at a comparable cost should be used. If upgrading, then the additional upgrade cost should be paid by the manager. The manager should not charge the resident for more than the resident has damaged. If only the bedroom carpet was damaged, then the manager shouldn’t charge the resident for re-carpeting the entire apartment.
The manager cannot charge a resident the full cost of new carpet to replace carpet that isn’t new. This would be charging the replacement cost. The manager should charge the resident for the loss of the value that was left in the carpet. This is charging the undepreciated cost. For example, if carpet will last five years (its useful life) and the carpet is three years old when the resident vacated, then you have used 60% (3yrs/5yrs) of its value. The residents’ destruction of the carpet has prevented you from using the other 40% (2yrs) of value in the carpet. If the new carpet costs $600, you can charge the resident $240, which is 40% (the value or useful life that you lost) of the full cost of carpet.
Real Life Isn’t as Simple
The real life situations are complicated. These are just a few of the host of other factors that are considered. The location of the tear or stain will effect the decision. A tear in the middle of the living room is less acceptable than against the wall under the drapes. The value of the rental as reflected by the amount of monthly rent will affect the latitude the manager has to repair rather than replace. The manager of a $5000 per month rental has a reasonable argument that his renters will be less accommodating to carpet imperfections than the $500 per month renter. The single-family home renter’s expectations with regard to the carpeting scheme will probably be greater than the college student apartment renter. Industry custom may come into play. Although the padding under a carpet may not be damaged, it may be customary to replace the padding when you replace the carpet.
The Concept of Presentation
There is some intangible in the way things look, feel, flow and match. There is an entire segment of the multi-family industry devoted to helping managers convey the right look and feel for their apartments, such that the prospective resident wants to rent. The tension is between the manager’s desire to preserve presentation to enhance marketability of the apartment versus the resident’s desire to suffer the minimum possible repair or replacement charge.
Finally, these matters are so subjective that they defy prediction of a judicial outcome. The manager should remember that he carries the burden of proof in any claim against a security deposit or in any lawsuit by the manager for damages. The manager must prove the condition of the carpet at move-in and at move-out and that the any damage is greater than ordinary wear and tear. Factors affecting the court’s decisions will be the reasonableness of a party’s position, the demonstrative evidence (pictures), the credibility of the testimony and independent expertise in the particular area. The manager’s opinion that the tear or stain required replacement, or that mismatched carpet in the bedrooms and hallway affects his ability to market the apartment, may strike the court as simple common sense or as self-serving, depending on the availability of comparison pictures. Testimony from an industry expert, such as a carpet or flooring specialist, or an interior decorator, may be required by the court.
- The Curable Noncompliance Examined PART 1
- THE CURABLE NONCOMPLIANCE EXAMINED PART 2
- THE WRIT OF POSSESSION – WHAT IT IS
- THE WRIT OF POSSESSION AND THE FULL UNIT
- WORK ORDER COMPANY POLICY AND THE LAW