Q: I rent a small cottage and have some concerns about my carpet. It’s the kind of carpet that can best be described as 1970s-style shag with all the different color browns so you can’t tell where there are spots and stains. I hate to think about what stains could have happened in the last 30 years! My landlord promised to replace the carpet before I took possession of the rental, but when it came time to move-in he just had it "cleaned."

One day last month my toilet backed up and was running for 13 hours while I was at work. With 2 inches of water in the bathroom it spilled over into my bedroom and thoroughly soaked the carpet through at least half the room. It was to the point where the water would squish up through my toes. I feared that my furniture would begin to mold as it sat in this toilet water mess. So I pulled all of the carpet and padding up, there was still about 1/2 inch of water remaining after that. I contacted my landlord the next day and informed him of the situation. He did send someone out right away to extract the water, but he actually mentioned that maybe the carpet could be dried out and reinstalled on new pad. I am beginning to panic as I had already disposed of the carpet and I’m afraid this guy is going to make me pay for new carpet. What is the normal life expectancy of carpet?

A: You certainly have had quite an experience. The "lifespan" of carpet is a function of the quality of the carpet and the intensity of use and many other factors such as sunlight. So while each carpet must be evaluated individually, I think it is safe to say that the usual range of years for the average life of an apartment-grade carpet is 5-10 years. Clearly in your situation the normal wear and tear combined with the damage to the "1970s carpet" from the water would make this carpet unsalvageable. I think it is very safe to say that the carpet was beyond its life expectancy and your landlord needs to invest in some new carpet. Your landlord at least sent out a vendor to clean up the water so maybe they can explain that drying out 30-year-old carpet after extensive water damage is wrong on many levels! Good luck, but I think that your landlord needs to get out his checkbook!

Q: My husband and I are about to move out of a new home that we have been renting in a rural area for the past 1 1/2 years. During a recent telephone conversation with the owners about the requirements for properly cleaning the property in order to get our full security deposit back, they mentioned that we had to have "the septic tank professionally pumped." The original lease agreement had a very detailed addendum of specific cleaning details and preferred professional cleaners. I can understand the need for us to leave the house as clean as we moved in, but this is ridiculous. We did check into the cost and learned that it will be $395, and we are concerned because they are holding our $3,000 security deposit. Is cleaning the septic tank part of the normal cleaning that should be done by the vacating tenant?

A: I don’t believe that cleaning the septic tank is required, unless there was a specific agreement when you originally rented the house. The use of the plumbing system, including the septic tank, would be considered normal and expected use of the property. So without any agreement in advance or any justification that you had used the septic tank excessively, I don’t think you should be responsible for cleaning the septic tank. If you find that your security deposit refund has an improper deduction for such an expense, you should promptly send your landlord a demand letter requesting an immediate refund of the withheld amount. If that doesn’t get a response, you should pursue a small claims court action.

This column on issues confronting tenants and landlords is written by property manager Robert Griswold, author of "Property Management for Dummies" and co-author of "Real Estate Investing for Dummies."

E-mail your questions to Rental Q&A at rgriswold.inman@retodayradio.com.

Questions should be brief and cannot be answered individually.


What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.

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