Tenant trying to deduct carpet cleaning from rent.

Approximately a week ago I received a call from one of my tenants that has been renting from me for approx 3 or 4 months.

The call went something like this:

Tenant: I am calling to let you know that I am going to have someone come in to clean the carpets next week.

Me: Ok. Do they really need it? I had them professionally cleaned before you moved in.

Tenant: I have been noticing when I walk around in the living room my socks are turning black.

Me: You already have someone coming next week to clean them?

Tenant: Yes, I just wanted to let you know.

So now I received this months rent short approx $250 with a note.
“I hope it is alright I have deducted for the carpet cleaning”

In the conversation last week the tenant never asked if I was willing to pay for the cleaning.

Obviously I cannot just allow the tenant to deduct whatever expenses they see fit from the rent.

Does anyone have a diplomatically worded letter that explains that this is not acceptable that the rent will be considered late if the remainder is not paid.

On a side note. I think that the tenant got ripped off if she really paid that much for cleaning of the carpet. It is not a very large space.

Had she asked, I would have considered providing some credit toward the carpet cleaning. However at this point I am reluctant to do this as it would be rewarding bad behavior.

Any feedback would be appreciated.



You need to put it in your lease like this:
For all maintenance/repair issues, contact NAME at PHONE NUMBER. Residents are not allowed to contract their own repairs.

The reason is simple. Say they’re short on rent one month. They can invent a problem and say they got it fixed and had to pay for it. How do you know their family member or friend doesn’t work for a company where they could get a receipt saying they paid $250 to get a toilet unclogged or something like that.

In your situation, they probably got the place really dirty themselves if you cleaned it up 4 months ago. If they were that concerned about it, they could have rented a Rug Doctor and got shampoo for probably $40 or $50 and cleaned it up. Once again, the bigger concern is how did they get it that filthy in 4 months?
That’s the exact reason I rip carpet out of places if at all possible. If there’s wood underneath, that’s what they get.

No need to be too diplomatic about your wording. You’re in charge. You need to let them know that the rent must be paid on time no matter what. Any other issues have to come thru you. Considering the timeframe from when you cleaned the carpets and how it all went down, they should be paying for it.

You must be very very precise when you speak to tenants. They will always interpret anything in their own favor, and if it is not in their favor, they will make it up.

That’s their nature and a landlord must deal with it.

Next time, you say, “Sorry, but the carpets were cleaned before you moved in, so if you want them cleaned again, it will be at your own expense.”

Now, you must call them and say “Mr Tenant, your rent is short this month and you still owe me $250 for the rent. I did not offer to pay to have the carpets cleaned again, and if you had them cleaned it is at your own expense.”

Being diplomatic often involves being subtle, and subtle is completely lost on tenants. With tenants you must be both very clear and very firm.

I suspect that they did not have the carpets cleaned. That’s a lot of money for carpet cleaning. I can get a large house done for $125. Did they enclose a receipt for the carpet cleaning? It is a favorite tenant trick to claim that they paid for non-existent repairs in order to reduce their rent payment.

Never write a letter about expense deductions. It makes the matter impersonal and makes the matter worse. Nobody respects landlords that write letters and a lot of times it ends up backfiring in court because the tenant can always change their story to their advantage or make you look like a cold hearted slumlord to the judge based on what you wrote.

If it were me, I would confront them personally with a non payment of rent notice. If they are not there, I will leave a voice message on their phone that I want to set up a time to talk about this shortfall and leave them the eviction notice for insufficient payment.

Once they see the notice, they know I mean business, but will want try to convince you why you should grant them the deduction anyway. I then meet them in person to calmly discuss it.

Next, I’m going to ask for disclosure while I am there. I want to see a legitimate receipt. Then, I’m going to ask them if they have before and after pictures (in case it goes to court). You don’t even know if the carpet was dirty to begin with and if it was really cleaned. I want proof.

If the receipt looks legit, I’m going to try to negotiate. I’m going to explain to them that they take the apartment as is when they move in. I’m going to explain them the rules of how it works if I pay for anything. I will tell them they didn’t follow the policy. Then, I’m going to offer to pay for parts, not labour, and tell them I normally just rent a Rug Doctor vacuum with shampoo and do it myself for $50 and I will offer them a $50 credit if you pay the balance today otherwise the eviction stands.

I don’t like rewarding bad behavour either, but compromising on a token amount might be what it takes keep it from going to court and have them use this as their defense to not pay the balance and future rent, which is a waste of your time and money.

I agree with the others. You are only 3 or 4 months into the tenant so no big loss. Let the tenant know that they are $250 short on the rent they have 4 days to pay the rest. If they don’t return the other rent and evict them.

If you pay for their carpet being cleaned you need to also pay for them getting maid service or lawn care. Cleaning is cleaning they are responsible for cleaning the house.

Yep, that is exactly right. Tell them they cannot deduct expenses like that from rent, and they need to pay the remainder of the rent immediately or they will be evicted.

I work at Stanley Steemers and we are generally the most expensive carpet cleaning company. Now don’t get me wrong we deserve to be the most expensive since we do the best job and have the best equipment. That being said $250 worth of cleaning at Stanley will get you a lot of carpets cleaned. We are doing a deal right now that cleans 3 areas for $99. So if this is an apartment or starter home they would have to of cleaned a lot of carpet, tile, wood, and/or protected and deodorized the whole house and possibly some furniture. So unless this is a large home they either got ripped off or are more likely trying to rip you off because they were going to be short this month and gave you that bogus story.

Sidenote: Those rug doctor deals are just ok and I’ll explain why. Traditional over the counter carpet cleaners like rug doctors, resolve, spot shot, oxy clean (worst do not use) are not very good for your carpet. Most of those products are full of bleach, shampoo, or both. Bleach is obviously bad and is the main ingredient in oxy clean. This will lighten your carpet over time. Soap stays in the carpet and does a good job of attracting dirt. This won’t damage the carpet as long as you keep vacuuming regularly but it makes it look dirtier quicker. If you have to use an over the counter product resolve is usually ok just because it is soapy and doesn’t have much bleach in it. Rug doctors are also ok but again just lots of soapy residue…fine for rentals but probably want something better for your own home. By no means is this supposed to be a plug for Stanley just some general carpet info I’ve learned in my first few weeks working there.

Helpful tip: The best way to treat spills is to use naturally white towels with a light weight on them to just soak up the spill from the carpet. Dyed towels can bleed into the carpet. Most terry cloth towels are naturally white and very cheap.

I agree with everyone else - she owes you the money.

I would forgive late charges until Saturday (or her next paycheck) if she gets it to you then. This situation doesn’t necessarily make her a bad tenant.

If she is a bad tenant then post notice.

This is typical lowlife reasoning. If you cave in and give
her a break this time, next time it’ll be,
“The power bill came in too high for me to pay so I’m going
to deduct $$$$ from the rent fool…I mean landlord!”

Are you the landlord or is she?

If she gets pissed, she’ll either not pay and move, or pay
and shut up.
This whole scenerio sounds like “the punk test” that many
guys go through with ladies. Early in the relationship they
try something like, bringing their girlfriend along on a date,
using their phone while you’re spending time together, asking
you to pick up their pills, or putting the toilet seat down
(in your own house). If you fail to check this bad behavior,
you’ll have to deal with it throughout the entire relationship.
You gotta nip it in the bud!

Same applies to a tenant.
As for a script, “Ms. Whoever, you need to send me the rest of
the rent immediately or move out.”

I’d just call and tell her, verses a letter. A letter is passive and weak.

But it eliminates the he said / she said conversation in court. I like things in writing - period.

I too am of the belief that anything that can be disputed should be in writing.

Here is a quick update of how things played out.

I wrote the tenant a letter explaining that she still owes the ~$250 that she was short on the first payment.

I also explained that if there are maintenance issues that she would like me to pay for, she needs to submit a maintenance request.

I explained that the remainder was due within three business days.

Exactly three business days later, she paid.

As others have said, I think she was just testing her limits.

Thanks to all for their input.


Good job Steve. You stood your ground well.

I don’t care about the carpet. This analogy is perfect. When I was single I would always tell girls that they really prefer the seat up. They would get all indignant about who am I to tell them what they want. Then they would insist I put it down. I then put it down and leave it down and never put it up. So when I would pee on the seat they complain I explain that if the seat was up they would be able to put down a clean seat whenever they needed one instead of cleaning this one up.

And so, Bluemoon, are you still single?