Putting a price on odor problem

Rent it Right

Q: When our tenants moved out, we inspected their apartment for damage. We discovered that all of the draperies and curtains, as well as the rug, smell strongly of cooking spices (I think it’s curry). These tenants must not have used the kitchen fan nor opened the windows — the place really reeks. Can we deduct from their deposit the cost of replacing these items? We think the tenants were selling what they made — we saw a food truck parked in front of the unit several times. –Dort and Walt H.

A: Landlords may use the security deposit to cover damage that goes beyond normal wear and tear; and they can use it to perform needed cleaning. On the second item, a few states, such as California, specify that the tenant must leave the unit as clean as it was when the tenant moved in. Other states aren’t as specific as to the meaning of "clean," leaving landlords, tenants and often judges to resort to their own definitions.