Q: When my tenant moved out, he left rugs that were badly stained. Although I could have had them cleaned professionally, I decided after my tenant left to pull them up and refinish the hardwood floor beneath. In fact, I gave the unit an overall facelift, so that I can charge more rent, and I would have taken the rugs up even if they had been left in a clean condition. My tenant doesn’t dispute that the rugs were dirty, but says that because I didn’t actually clean them, I shouldn’t be allowed to deduct from his deposit an expense I never incurred. Who’s right? –Mary M.

A: Yours is a question that would warm the hearts of law professors everywhere. Like many issues in the law, there’s no simple, applies-everywhere answer. But here are the basics.

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