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We recently moved out of a home that we were leasing for 12 months. When moving out, we called to ask how much carpet cleaning would be so we could determine if we wanted to hire our own company or not. The woman from the leasing company said it would be 'around $160'. This was slightly cheaper than the other quotes we'd gotten, so we told them they could go ahead and handle the carpet cleaning, and just take it out of our security deposit.

We got our move-out documentation today, and it has a carpet cleaning fee of over $450. Our lease doesn't mention a specific amount, just 'a minimum of $163'. A couple of points that are concerning to me..

  • We were told they used a 'special service' because we had pets. We do have pets, but they're house trained, and don't shed.
  • On top of our security deposit, we paid an additional non-refundable $500 pet deposit. My understanding is that this is to cover additional cleaning needed due to pets. If this were for repairs, it says clearly that we would be held responsible for the full price of the repair or replacement. So if it's not being used for cleaning, are we just giving the leasing company $500 for nothing?
  • I've talked to 3 other carpet companies, all of which are at least $150 cheaper, even when considering pets in the home.

I'm concerned that the cost of carpet cleaning is almost 3x the 'minimum' amount listed in our lease; not to mention the amount we were specifically told over the phone when calling before moving out.

Do we have any options here?

  • What jurisdiction? – phoog Jul 15 '15 at 17:06
  • @phoog -- Florida – MrDuk Jul 15 '15 at 17:14
  • Did they give you a receipt that the work was done? If not, request one in writing. Also, have you talked about it with them, it may be a clerical error. With the receipt, I would call the company that did the carpet cleaning, get an estimate over the phone. The receipt should have line item of how much the pets cost (ours did). With my last rental, we had there company come out as well because they had worked out some deal with them to make it cheaper. As for calling over the phone, yeah, I've done that one too and it really does not mean much unless they will admit they said that. – Jdahern Jul 15 '15 at 17:20
  • Thanks, I have a receipt, and tried calling the carpet company but they said they don't do estimates over the phone. I will call them back, and reference our job number, asking for the pet fee though. – MrDuk Jul 15 '15 at 17:23
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    "On top of our security deposit, we paid an additional non-refundable $500 pet deposit." - If it's non-refundable, it's not a deposit, it's a fee. IANAL, but I'm pretty sure that if they use the word "deposit" in the lease, it can't be unilaterally non-refundable. – Dan Henderson Jul 30 '15 at 4:38
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I am not a lawyer.

Unfortunately, the contract says that is a minimum of $163 for cleaning, so they could be even charge you for the full deposit if they want to; the contract allows it. If the contract does not specify how the pet deposit fee will be used, there is nothing that you can do here neither.

Suing them will not help either. Would you spent thousands of dollars on lawyer expenses just to get back a couple of hundred dollars? I do not think it make any sense.

The only thing that I see you could do is that, if you are on the US, you could report them to the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Even if they don't do anything, at least you can put a complaint for others in the future, and seeing this complaint might make them to change their opinion (in order to avoid the bad review).

  • Small claims court might be an option. But it really sounds like its too risky that they would lose. I think your answer is the best course of action. – Jdahern Jul 15 '15 at 17:22
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As a professional carpet cleaner in Auckland I can add to this conversation from a different angle...

The thing you need to know is that not all carpet cleaners are created equal. Every city has 3 types of carpet cleaner available.

  1. Mr Cheap: Your $160 quote is from Mr Cheap. Mr cheap is a churn and burn operation. He quotes low prices to win work, then has to rush through 4, 5, or even 6, jobs in a day to make any profit. He mostly just goes "through the motions" of cleaning. He doesn't go slowly to ensure proper steam injection. he doesn't go back over the wet carpet 3 times to extract left over water to make the carpet dry faster. He doesn't treat different carpets in different ways depending on type and other factors. He might not do stain removal, he might not use the best or any chemicals. He certainly doesn't get lots of repeat business or good online reviews. Lastly, there's a high chance he'll be using a portable machine that comes into the house. These machines are WEAK compared to high powered truck mounted cleaning machines.

  2. Mr Middle: Mr middle can be a good option for many home owners and even more so for tenants. He is charging a around 50% more than mr Cheap. Because of this, he can make the same money in 3-4 jobs as the other guy makes in 6 jobs. Because of this, he takes a bit more time and care to do the job properly. He balances service with price and gets most little marks and stains as he goes. He should do the job properly without going to extremes in regards to customer service or fancy extras.

  3. Mr Premium: Your landlord being the owner of the property and the one who cares most is going to call Mr Premium. Mr Premium is amazing if you can afford him. His vans are well branded and in good condition. He lays on the extra special treatment to justify the price. He'll do all sorts of stuff like, pre-vacuum before cleaning, do extra treatments on high traffic areas, he will use commercial grade deodorizers to eliminate smells and other mess from pets, kids, and spills. He has a wide range of (sometimes) expensive chemicals to treat and get rid of every kind of stain. He is fully insured, properly trained, and WON'T damage the property by dragging hoses against walls.

So, as far as the price difference goes, I hope the above is enlightening...

Now, for your specific situation.

The Dog: as sweet as he is and well trained and not shedding etc... it simply doesn't matter. if the dog has been hanging out on the carpet he has put into it all sorts of doggy oils, doggy sweat and doggy slobber. The second the steam from the cleaner hits the carpet all you're going to smell is WET DOG. The use of special chemicals to break down these organic compounds from the dog is a must if the property is changing hands. You could really ruin the day of someone with dog allergies if this is not done properly.

What If... What if you hire Mr Cheap and he damages the carpet?
What if you hire Mr Cheap, and he does such and average job the landlord is forced to bring in his on guy... now you've paid to clean the carpet twice! (i see this often)

I hope you sort out your situation, armed with this new information perhaps it may be easier to understand the difference in price and why your landlord goes for premium while you go for Mr Cheap...

I think the key for anyone else in this situation is Mr Middle. Check the online reviews and ensure they're reputable and get a good job done without the massive price tag.

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    This is an example of a non-legal answer that illuminates facts pertinent to the industry itself. Thanks for providing it. +1 – Pat W. Oct 5 '18 at 12:45
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This is a case of landlord fraud by "it's too trivial to litigate."

They rely on it being too small an amount to bring an action against...because it will cost you that much to bring the action, or more. On the grand scale of litigation, the amounts you mention are way less than "trivial." In most jurisdictions, "usual and customary" cleaning isn't chargeable against security deposits. Only "extraordinary and unanticipated" is. But...are you willing to spend a day of your life arguing over a couple hundred bucks that you probably won't get back anyway?

  • I've always had it in mine that the tenant is required to clean. One guy lost his security deposit for not trying. – Joshua Mar 27 '16 at 2:19

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