Poor housekeeping could cost tenants

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Q: We own a house that we rent to an elderly woman and her son. We were called to repair a leak under the kitchen sink. The house was filthy: the rug had large food stains; the kitchen floor needed washing; the kitchen appliances were all food-stained; and two containers of food on the kitchen table had mold in them. Worse, there were cockroaches scurrying everywhere. When I mentioned the condition of the house to the son, he said that he sprayed. I told him the house also needed to be cleaned. He asked me who was I to come into his house and tell him what to do? I would appreciate your advice as to my landlord rights. --Christine L. A: Most states require tenants to keep the rental reasonably clean, and some go so far as to list the tenant's specific duties, such as maintaining appliances in a way that does not damage them. Smart landlords will repeat these duties in a lease clause that tells the tenant what his responsibilities are -- and that if he fails to live up to th...