For many tenants, property condition is a deciding factor when renting a home. If you’ve been renting for a while, you’re probably already in the habit of documenting any damages prior to move-in. But how often do you think about the carpet condition in your rented home or apartment? Probably not often (until it starts to look visibly dirty or worn).
Without proper cleaning and maintenance carpet can become a health-risk even before it begins to look dingy. Carpet can hold four times its weight in dirt and debris, which settles into the fibers and cannot be removed by dry vacuuming alone. Food, hair, skin cells, as well as debris, dragged in by pets or shoes can build up in the carpet, making it a perfect breeding ground for mold and dangerous bacteria.
Even if you are scrupulously clean, you will still have some level of build-up in your carpet. There’s also no guarantee that a property’s previous tenants shared your standards of cleanliness. Knowing your rights as a tenant and asking your prospective landlord a few questions before signing a lease, could spare you a few headaches down the line.
Property Condition Laws
Colorado has passed a number of rules and regulations governing the landlord-tenant relationship, which includes laws about property condition. The Colorado Warranty of Habitability, for example, was designed to protect tenants from unscrupulous landlords and requires rentals to be adequately waterproofed, have working heat, plumbing, and electricity, as well as proper sanitation. Under this warranty, the landlord is responsible for any necessary maintenance and upgrades to keep the property habitable.
Beyond the general requirement of habitability, which would ostensibly include properly maintained flooring, there are no state laws regulating carpet replacement or maintenance. As a result, landlords are only legally required to replace the carpeting in rental properties if it makes the house unlivable, such as in cases of mold or pests.
Under these laws, how frequently carpets should be replaced is left to the landlord’s discretion. When touring a rental, you may want to ask when the carpet was last replaced and when the landlord intends to install new carpets. With normal wear and tear, a carpet can last approximately 15 to 20 years, but the Department of Housing and Urban Development recommends replacing a rental property’s carpets every 5 to 7 years.
So what should you do if you’re touring a house or apartment with dingy carpets that have never been replaced? As a potential tenant, you have a few options—
- Don’t rent the property. If the landlord seems unconcerned with the carpet condition or is resistant to the idea of replacing it, keep searching. You should feel comfortable and safe in your rental home and not be worried about what might be lurking in the carpets.
- Attempt to negotiate with the landlord to have the carpet replaced. Consider offering to sign a longer lease or paying a slightly higher rental rate to cover the cost of the carpet. Most landlords are willing to make a few compromises if it means they can find a good, long-term tenant for their property.
- Live with the carpets as-is. Most debris and bacteria can be eliminated from your carpets with regular steam cleaning, which should be done at least once a year. Many landlords will have a property’s carpets cleaned between each tenant, which is another great question to ask during a property tour.
Depreciation and Damages
As a tenant, you may also bear some responsibility for replacing damaged carpets, which is why it’s important to document any potential issues before move-in. You do not want to be charged for damages that you did not cause and disputes over security deposits are common but avoidable. The deposit that you pay at the beginning of your lease will be used to make any necessary repairs when you move out, which could include cleaning or replacing carpets.
If your landlord decides to withhold part of your deposit, he or she must give you a written report explaining the deductions. Deposits can only be used to cover damages, not normal wear and tear. When it comes to carpet, wear and tear includes issues such as matting, dirt or wear in heavily trafficked areas, and impressions from furniture. Burns, stains, or tears in the carpet would be considered damages, and your deposit could be used to pay for cleaning or replacing the affected areas.
In most courts, the cost of replacing the carpet would be prorated over the course of five years, since that is considered the useful life of carpeting in a rental home. In other words, if the carpet is already 3 years old when you moved into the house, you could not be charged the full cost for replacing a damaged carpet, since it was already halfway through its expected lifespan.
The method of carpet installation can also affect how the carpet depreciates. Since tacked-down carpet is easily removed, it is not considered “attached” to the property and would depreciate over the span of 5 years. Glued-down carpet is considered more permanent and would depreciate over 27.5 years like most other types of flooring.
Though you may not think of carpet condition as a deal-breaker in a rental property, take a moment consider the extent of damage or wear before committing to a lease. Considering the amount of bacteria and dirt that can live in a carpet, negligence in cleaning and replacing the carpet could put you and your family at risk. Asking for the carpet cleaning and replacement schedule during a tour is a great place to start and could help you and your landlord come to a better understanding of each other’s priorities and expectations.