Who is Responsible for Cleaning Dirty Carpets?

Written on August 11, 2016 by , updated on December 9, 2016

Dirty CarpetsIs that chocolate ice cream, or something the previous tenant’s baby left behind? Ah yes, the joys of renting a unit with carpet.

While landlords are responsible for ensuring that their rental units are safe and inhabitable, it’s difficult to argue that a dirty carpet is dangerous or makes a house unlivable.

But what exactly is meant by a “unlivable“, and how do cleaning carpet stains fit in?

Aren’t carpet stains considered “normal wear and tear”?

If you, as a renter, are confused about your rights, you’re not alone. This is a common problem, and one that can cause to you live in less than ideal living conditions. Livable conditions typically refer to necessities, such as having a roof over your head, hot water, and heat during the winter.

But you might, for example, be asked to live with a drip in the bathroom or an unsightly stain in the carpet.

Although those problems are pretty minor and are unlikely to be a reason for you to leave your rental property, those irritants can make a living situation unpleasant.

Who Made it Dirty?

Did you, the renter, spill red wine, or drop your spaghetti dinner onto the carpet? If so, then you’ll likely be responsible to fix/clean it.

Even though most of America eats dinner in front of their TV, food spills are never “normal wear and tear”. That’s why we have dining rooms, and if you choose to each on the couch, you do so at your own risk.

…though common, food spills are never “normal wear”

Was the stain there when you moved-in? If so, then the landlord certainly can’t hold you responsible for it – but he also might not have to clean it.

Be sure to document the condition of the property, including the stain, when you move in so there are no issues later. And while it might be unsightly, the landlord still doesn’t have to fix it unless it’s causing a health issue.

Related: What Can I Deduct or Withhold From a Security Deposit?

Here’s a related podcast episode:

Know the Laws for Cleaning, Maintenance, and Repairs

A stain in the carpet, or generally dirty carpets, do not make a rental unit uninhabitable (obviously); therefore, the rules surrounding whether a landlord has to clean a carpet can seem hazy.

Cosmetic repairs are usually not legally required. But in some cases, such as issues with mold or health risks, landlords may have to make such repairs.

If the carpet stain or condition is a threat to human safety, then the landlord should intervene.

To help you determine whether your landlord is legally required to clean or repair your carpet, you could do some research to see if this is addressed in the following:

  1. County building codes
  2. State tenant-landlord laws
  3. Written or oral promises that your landlord has made
  4. Terms of your lease

If you find out that your landlord is legally required to clean the carpet every X years, or deal with the unsightly carpet stain, then the next hurdle is to actually get your landlord to do it.

Although withholding your rent or using a “repair and deduct” procedure might be allowed by law in some states, it is not advisable to do either because these methods can result in eviction.

Instead, why not try out an alternative to get your landlord to clean your carpet (or make other minor repairs)?

Here are four ideas to get your carpet clean:

1. Speak with Your Landlord

Ask your landlord about cleaning the carpet or doing another minor repair job. Your landlord might be very willing to fix the problem, especially if it prolongs the life of the carpet.

Plus, it shows that you take pride in the condition of the unit and your landlord will likely want to make things better for you.

2. Write a Repair Request

Even if you have spoken with your landlord, writing a letter or an email can be helpful.

It gives the landlord time to think over the request. Additionally, a repair request gives you the opportunity to describe the problem and to explain why it is in the landlord’s best interest to clean the stain in the carpet.

Let them know that the stain may become worse and thus more costly to clean later.

3. Propose Mediation

If you can’t get your landlord to cooperate, you can propose a formal mediation.

This is probably one of the last resorts that you should consider with regards to cleaning carpet stains. But in some cases, contacting a mediation service can be the only way forward, especially if oral and written requests are ignored.

Mediators work with both you and your landlord to come up with a solution that you both agree is fair.

With that said, if your landlord is a slumlord, they will just ignore your request and act like you are crazy.

4. Clean Carpet Stains Yourself

If the landlord is not required by law to clean the carpet stain (which is common), and they are not willing to do so, you could try to clean the carpet stain yourself.

There are many methods to clean carpet stains; one of the most effective is by using a combination of vinegar and baking soda.

  1. Soak the carpet stain with vinegar.
  2. Sprinkle a little baking soda over the vinegar.
  3. Pour vinegar on the pile of baking soda (expect a carpet volcano).
  4. Wait until it absorbs the stain (approximately 5 minutes).
  5. Wipe up the mixture, and vacuum.

This method should remove most carpet stains, so it is well worth a try, especially if your landlord is likely to withhold your security deposit if such stains are evident.

Related: How to Get Your Tenants to Clean Regularly in 5 Easy Steps

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9 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Lee

    Has anyone used Travelers Haven as a rental source….if so, were you satisfied with them?

  • deborah tempera

    The carpet is high grade commercial that one finds in office buildings. Because the tenant hardly cleaned in 2 years and also there was alot of puppy problems, she constantly had to clean the areas .
    Now the carpet, year 3 looks not so good and the steps have ground dirt of 3 years, never cleaned.
    How do I handle this, for she thinks I have to replace them for they were put in 5 years ago.

  • Misty D

    Hi We have lived in our apartment for 13 years and the carpet was installed in 2005 I wanted to know if we are reliable for the wear and tare, we do have pets that made a hole from accidentally being left in a room ?

  • Miranda

    So what if the carpet is sticky. I have a small child and a baby on the way. My kid is playing on beach towels cause the carpets are filmy and sticky and they wreak of chemicals. That being said, how can I know if it’s nontoxic, ya know? I’m not too worried about stains. They happened, but we just moved in and my kid can’t even play on her bedroom floor?

  • Janet

    since year 2017 higher manager then site manager keeps saying my carpet and floor will be done…still not done… he’s been giving me ongoing excuses…i live in van bc…what are my legal rights as a tenant? I had bought a Dyson vacuum thinking it was my vaccum but its not at all…the carpets are heavily wear/tear & soiled…so i had professionally cleaned numerous times still cant get out the stains buckling in carpet for years. Kitchen/bathroom floors are cracking to the point gonna get worse.

  • Julie

    Can a landlord demand a three year + tenant with small kids clean the carpet?? The carpet is in good condition, nothing wrong with it except for some normal stains. And give the tenant only a week?

    • TN-Landlord-059

      1) I am not a lawyer, but the owner of valuable property entrusted to tenants.
      2) Tenants are responsible for care of the $$ property given to them.
      3) Carpets absorb dust and dirt just like air filters, (which tenants are required to replace). Vacuuming alone cannot remove all the dirt which tenants (of course the tenants brought it in. Who else?? They live there!)
      4) It would certainly seem reasonable that the Landlord can require proof that tenant has had the carpet professionally cleaned periodically. Or landlord can do it and charge tenant. . . much like charging to change the smoke detector batteries if the tenant does not do it. . .
      For example every 18 months. . . .

      Comments please!!

  • Liz

    Just moved out of a rental. I paid a professional service to steam clean carpets, but property manager was not happy with results. So I called him back to do over. At my expense, I had the electricity turned back on for this purpose. Because the electric company requires three days’ notice to turn off power again, someone had left lights and A/C running that I ended up paying for. Bill was hefty for four days. The property manager charged me again for the carpets, plus $100 to have the water turned back on, as well as a charge for a cleaning service to clean the house because she didn’t think I did a good enough job either. Really hurt. Took good care of property, no damage, never asked for much, rent always paid on time.

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