Landlord overcharged security deposit?

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Dear Sir/Madam,

I moved out of my previous apartment on August 31, 2008. Twenty days later, I got a letter from my previous landlord charging me $1,561.00 after deducting the $300.00 deposit. There are totally four charges: Excessive Suite Cleaning for $100.00; Repair Walls throughout due to grease/crayon marks for $220.00; Replace counter in Kitchen due to burn mark for $485.00; Pro-rated carpet replacement for $1056.00.

I have no problem with the second one, Repair walls throughout due to grease/crayon marks for $220.00 since I know my two year old son did paint the wall with crayon and magic marks.

The first one, Excessive suite cleaning for $100.00, I feel it is not reasonable, at first I did a thorough cleaning after moving out of my stuff. The second, they claimed redo the wall and replace the carpet, the what left for a "Excessive Suite Cleaning". I called manager, she said the restrooms. Actually I remember I did clean the restrooms very well. Can I ask to waive this charge in court?

The third one, "Replace counter in Kitchen due to burn mark for $485.00. I know there is burn mark we caused. But the problem is the charge us for the total cost of the replacement. I feel this should be pro-rated as well since we lived there 2 years and 8 months. The counter is already not a brand new one. The manager said they don't do appreciation for the counter.

The last one is "Pro-rated carpet replacement for $1056.00". The manager said there are stains of magic marks and crayon and the carpet expert said it needs to be replaced. I don't agree with charge the most. I know there are some stains on the carpet. But when the manager made the walk-in inspection before we move out, she did not say the carpet need to be replace. Then we thought they can clean or repair the stained the carpet, so we did not do anything about. After getting the bill letter, I contacted a professional carpet cleaning company, they said they do the work of carpet cleaning and getting rid of the color on the carpet. They charge $145.46 for the work totally.

I mean the manager did not give us a chance to fix the problem. She should notice us before we leave for the carpet issue. Then we might be able to fix it with a small about money. She argued that they sent us a letter before we leave generally say that any unrepairable damage will be on us for replacement. We are not professional and can not realize that the stains on the carpet will lead to a replacement. Therefore we only agree a cleaning and repair cost for $145.46 given quote by the professional carpet cleaning and repairing company we contacted.

Now the landlord refused to negotiate the charge. I wonder if a small claim court or somewhere else will help to reduce the charge. My hope is to waive the $100.00 excessive cleaning charge; reduce the counter repair charge to be pro-rated; reduce the carpet replacement charge to cleaning or repair chargeIs their big chance I can win? By the way I live in Cleveland, OH.

Any help is deeply appreciated,

Best regards,

Joey Stone
The time to fix the problem such as stained carpets (so one gets a larger portion of their security deposit back) is before you move out, not afterwards. This is especially true with the cleaning of carpets which seems to be a very common issue between tenants and landlords.

The cost of replacing a carpet is prorated over the life of the carpet, typically seven to ten years. An exception might be if new carpet was put in when you moved in and you totally destroyed it in the almost three years you lived there.

Countertops are often a different matter since it's often impossible to cut out one piece that has been burned and simply replace that piece. Usually the entire countertop has to be replaced.

When a landlord and tenant cannot work out an agreement on how much is owed for damage above normal wear and tear the next step is typically Small Claims Court. The landlord will have to show the extent of the damage left by the tenant and have documentation regarding the cost of repairing/replacing these items. The tenant will have to show why they don't owe the amount they've been charged.

Did you happen to take pictures when you vacated the unit? They are often very useful in showing the court how much cleaning you did.

Thank you, Gail.

Unfortuantely I didn't take any pitures. That was the first time I rented a apartment. The landlord did a moveout inspection but didn't figure out that the carpet need to be replaced? Does it matter? I mean if this the landlord's fault failling to inform me before I move out. Therefore I can refuse to pay the carpet replacing cost.

Although many states encourage (and even require) a walk through with the landlord and tenant at the end of the lease, each state still gives the landlord additional time to check for further damages. In Ohio, a landlord has 30 days to return the security deposit to the tenant or provide notice why this wasn't done.

Often the first walk through may not reveal damage above normal wear and tear. This is why most landlords do not immediately refund the security damages at the end of the walk through with the vacating tenants.

You can, of course, refuse to pay these additional expenses; however, your landlord would also have the option of filing against you in Small Claims Court for these damages.


Not really. If you go to Small Claims Court to dispute the amount the judge may rule in your favor.

Again; the landlord would have to prove these charges.

Even if you did not win everything, the judge may very likely reduce the amount that the landlord states you owe.

Thank you again, Gail.

With your advice, even I lose the suit totally I will give a try with the small claim. Actually I was hesitant to do that since I read the instruction of small claim court somewhere mentioning that you only can use small claim court when somebody owning your money. Here my case is that I want to reduce the amount of being charged by landloard. Now your words encouraged me. Now I am sure I can go to the small claim court to fight for my benefit.

Gail, I really appreciate your help.


Went to court today for filing a small claim lawsuit but not done. The clerk told me that they never heard of such case to sue being overcharged. And it seems there is no ground for me to file a lawsuit against them now since they don't owe me money. They said in the way that they sue me first then I countersuit them. It is not a good idea since they will damage my credit first by turning the bill to a collection agency.

Any advise?


1. Pay the money for the damages (include a letter disputing the amount and keeping a copy) and then sue in Small Claims Court for this amount, stating that you paid under duress and with the concern that not paying would damage your credit.

2. As the clerk suggested, wait for them to sue you, then countersue.

3. Wait for the collection agency to contact you, pay them (again, with a letter disputing this amount), then sue in Small Claims Court for this money.

4. Pay what they claim you owe and put this behind you.

In terms of saving your credit, number 1 and number 4 are your best bets.

It's not unusual that someone would pay a debt they do not believe they owe for fear that not doing this would negatively affect their credit.

Thank you so much, Gail.

I will go with the first option, pay them and sue them

Either win or loss I will come here to let you know the results.

Best regards,

My 2 yr old left crayon marks on windows and my landlord at that time only charged us $100 for cleaning.
In a Carpet we were even able to remove finger paint stains by just professional steam cleaning for the cost of $70 (full basement). Crayon marks and food stains came off with our steam cleaner.
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