Can your landlord charge you for carpet cleaning?

Landlord’s $25 deduction for carpet cleaning costs him $390.00 later.

Landlord Breton Builder Co., Ltd., leased an apartment to Jeremie Chaney, a Bowling Green University student. The lease between the two did not contain a provision requiring the tenant to steam clean/shampoo the carpet. However, the landlord provided all tenants with move-out instructions indicating that carpets were to be swept and shampooed with a steam cleaner. If this was not done, the landlord would do it at a cost of $25.00 to $35.00 per apartment.

The Sixth District Court of Appeals found that the landlord’s move-out instruction sheet indicated to tenants that if they did not steam clean the carpets, the landlord would charge them to do it. Such an automatic deduction from a tenant’s security deposit is unlawful if the landlord fails to provide the tenant with an itemization setting forth the specific need for the deduction.

That specific need must result from damage to the carpeting that is beyond normal wear and tear. In this case, the tenant had taken photos of the carpet prior to move-out and had a witness to testify about the condition of the carpeting at move-out. The landlord could only offer his opinion that the carpet needed professional cleaning. The trial court did not buy the landlord’s story and awarded the BGSU student $50 in damages and $340 in attorney’s fees.

A landlord must justify the need for steam-cleaning by providing a written itemization of deductions from the security deposit and the reason for each deduction. A landlord cannot automatically charge a tenant for steam-cleaning carpeting. A landlord must indicate that there has been damage to the carpeting beyond normal wear and tear that justified steam-cleaning.

In a similar case, landlord kept tenant’s security deposit, insisting that Tenant had not fulfilled a provision in the rental agreement which required Tenant to clean the carpets at the Apartment. The Sixth District Court of Appeals in Lucas County held that a provision in a lease agreement automatically forfeited all or a portion of the security deposit was in conflict with Ohio Revised Code section 5321.16. The Court held that, in this case, automatically requiring carpet cleaning was unenforceable. The Court reasoned that Landlord could only charge for carpet cleaning that actually needed to be done, regardless of what the rental agreement said. So, regardless of what the rental agreement says about carpet cleaning, tenants will only be charged for carpet cleaning if the damage to the carpet exceeds normal wear and tear.

Albreqt v. Chen (1983), 17 Ohio App. 3d 79.