Can I deduct from Security Deposit?

29 Replies

Hi guys,

So my tenant just moved out of the place and wanted to get your feedback as far as what you all think is reasonable to deduct.

Above are the pictures of damages caused by the tenant.

Before Move-In


Move Out

Below are the rest of the damages.

- Bedroom blind missing rod.
- Neighbor shares a common block wall, where neighbor had new gate installed, in the process of installing their gate, it damaged my gate.  I told him to resolve it with the neighbor, but he went ahead and just put some epoxy to try to fix it.

Now, for possibly the biggest expense of all....SMOKE ODOR!

My lease clearly states no smoking, they say they smoke outside, but you can definitely smell it in the master bedroom.  I would say it's a medium strength, I must of showed the house to 10 families and four of them complained about the smell.  

In case they tenant tries to sue me, I got two written quotes from odor restore companies that also states the odor at the house.  The carpets in the whole house I would give a grade D.  I maybe able to get someone if I just steam the carpets.

Here's the list of items I'm thinking about doing to remove the odor.

1) Shampoo Carpets
2) Clean Walls
3) Air Ducts Clean

If that does not work, can I charge him for new carpets & new paint in the master bedroom? 

What would you guys do? I want to be fair and I want to be prepared in case he tries to take me to court.


Be fair to yourself.  In the early days I did not charge as much as I should have for damages done to our properties by tenants.  Now I do regular inspections and charge for damages as I go.  I also catch lease violations before they get out of hand.  Catch the unauthorized smoking, unauthorized pets, unauthorized occupants before they cause significant damage to your property.

Pavement Oil Stain - charge for it.

Bedroom Blind Rod Missing - charge for it.

Gate and Epoxy.  That's on you.  You should have been the one to work it out with the neighbor in the first place. 

Smoke Damage - charge for it.  Smoke damage is costly.  What would it cost to restore the unit to it's move-in condition, less ordinary wear and tear?  You can work from the bids from the restoration company, or work out the costs yourself.  

1. Walls & Woodwork & Cabinetry - all will need a good vinegar/water wash. If it is really bad, then follow that with TSP wash. Paint if necessary.

2. Carpet - remove carpet and pad and seal floor if necessary.  If carpet is old, charge the tenant for the cost to replace minus ordinary depreciation.  Shampooing the carpets will not be enough because the smell is in the pad too and can get down to the subfloor as well, which may need to be treated with a stain/odor block paint.  You mention the carpeting is grade D... whether that means it has already had many years of useful life or it is cheap, no matter... not worth cleaning IMO.  You are in Nevada and tile flooring may be a good option for you, or vinyl plank flooring (TrafficMaster Allure Ultra is our current favorite), or you could re-carpet.

3.  Air Ducts and HVAC System - clean professionally.

Provide the tenant a breakdown from a licensed and insurance person that did the work on what it cost so the tenant will see what it cost to fix everything and the reason behind this the tenant has a right to know if you are charging a fair price or over charging.

Joe Gore

Another thought about the smoke odor.  Did you know the tenants were smokers?  

We have never had a smoker who didn't at some point smoke in the unit.  Even if the smoker doesn't smoke in the unit, they bring their smokey clothing and smokey bodies (hair too) into the unit and the smell gets on the carpet and onto the furniture and into the closets.  Look for evidence of cigarette butts in the air ducts and fireplace.  If they smoke outside and toss a cigarette butt into the bark dust or into a planter, it could cause a fire.  Not to mention the fire danger posed by people smoking in bed.  The smoke will drift to neighboring properties and people can be affected by second hand smoke.  This is especially important to think about with multifamily properties.

We have a strict NO SMOKING POLICY.  We don't rent to smokers.  Smokers are not a protected class.  Smoking is not allowed anywhere on the premises, inside or outside.  We have a clause in our rental agreement that requires our tenants to enforce the no smoking policy with their guests and invitees.  If they or their guests smoke on the premises, we charge a $50 violation fee for each occurrence.  

Also, we prefer to work with contractors who do not smoke.  Contractors who smoke will sometimes smoke outside on the property or the smoke odor on their clothing/bodies will sometimes get inside the unit.  We let our contractors know this is a concern of ours.  The smoking contractors are thinking twice about their habit/addiction and the non-smoking contractors are glad to be first in line to get the jobs!

@Marcia Maynard,

It is good thinking on your part but are you going to get yourself a rocking chair and sit outside your unit and see who come and go so you can nail them for $50 bucks.

Joe Gore

Thanks @Marcia Maynard  

If I decide to remove the carpet and replace it with tile, what would you say is a reasonable charge I could deduct? Labor to remove carpet and pad? or part of the cost of the new tile?

I would be hiring a license trade to do all things I will be deducting from tenants deposit and not do any of the work myself.

As for the drive way, one contractor suggest that the stain will never come out and I would need to do a skim coat of concrete. If i do a skim coat in just that one area, it would look funny if I didn't do the whole driveway.  Could I charge for the whole driveway?

If you replace the carpet with tile, you can charge no more, then what it would take to replace the carpet. Try floor sweep on the oil spot.

Joe Gore

Why would your tenant be responsible for something your neighbor did?

Why wouldn't they? They are responsible to maintain the property.  

If someone threw rocks and broke a window, just because the tenant didn't do it, the landlord has to fix it? I don't think so.

Yes, absolutely the landlord would be responsible for random vandalism. 

Your neighbor is responsible for damage he caused, not your tenant. 

If a driver has a heart attack, and drives into your house, your tenant is responsible?

If tree roots invade your sewer pipes, your tenant is responsible?

Are they supposed to repaint the exterior every 5 years?

Tenants aren't responsible to "maintain" or repair the property, for damages not caused by them.

I'd have to co-sign with Marcia Maynard and Wayne Brooks also. Charge the tenant for those damages that they've caused directly. However the neighbor destroying your property AND YOU KNOW THE NEIGHBOR DID IT and the tenant tried to fix it (which its not the tenants responsibility whatsoever) and just because they weren't successful in the repair you want to hold the tenant liable is wrong! You as the owner were sapposed to confer with the neighbor and should have directed the tenant NOT to bother the damaged wall in anyway. The neighbor is liable for those damages absolutely (before you told the tenant to handle it that is). Its an insurance issue between  the homeowners insurance or/and the neighbor's insurance. Certainly not the tenants fault, not cool, that's not right!



Ok, no charge for wall.

Smoke Odor ? and Driveway?

If your preparing for court (which you are of course), use fully licensed contractors to do all the work so the judge can see both the receipts and the fact you used a professional for the smoke and oil issues. No 3rd party receipts and you will 9/10 times loose.

Whatever you do, don't put anything in the security deposit disposition that you don't have 3rd party receipts for. I have owners wanting to do work themselves all the time and they won't listen when we tell them the recent changes by the contractors board. It is a violation to complete anything over $1000 even if you own the property because as a rental is considered a business. Thats total combined work in a 6 month period. Its not my law and I don't agree with it, but it is a new and improved fact of life. You cannot even legally paint your house unless it is a minor touch up. And I agree with @Wayne Brooks  about the wall damage.

@Tiger M.,

I agree but let's take it one more step the tenant has a right to contest the cost of the work if they think the landlord is pulling a fast one so it is best to get three estimates. On the oil spot, all you need to do is go to a mechanic's shop and get some floor sweep. Can you point out the case law you cannot paint your home yourself?

Joe Gore

@Joe Gore I don't need the rocking chair.   I'm a non-smoker with very sensitive olfactory senses.  I may not catch unauthorized smoking every time, but when we are doing maintenance or inspections I can smell or see the evidence.  Furnace filters will show the yellow tinge of nicotine.  Using a wet wipe on the edges of windows and doors will also show the evidence of nicotine.  Cigarette butts in the flower beds and parking lot are tell tale signs.  Other tenants and neighbors report as well.  In a non-smoking community, smokers stand out.

On another note, thanks Joe for the tip about "floor sweep".  I hadn't heard about the product before.  I'm going to try it.  Here is a link to the product I found through google.  Is that what you were referring to for cleaning concrete?

@Bruce L.  Be fair and reasonable when calculating charges against the security deposit.  Use professionals and keep receipts.  Or charge what is reasonable and customary in your area.   Heed the advice of others and mine too about what you need to do to maintain your property.  You can't put it all on the tenant. 

We are turning over an apartment right now that has damage from a tenant smoking in it against the rules.  For an example, this is what we recently charged:

 $185 extra cleaning charge to remove smoke residue off walls, woodwork, cabinets, fixtures.  This work will be done by a company that specializes in apartment turnovers and uses cleaning agents specific to smoke damage. 

$200 for smoke damage to the carpet which required us to re-carpet two bedrooms, hall and living room.  The job will cost about $1000, but the carpet we are replacing had some years on it, so we depreciated it's value.  We are losing about 20% of its functional life due to what the tenant did to it, so that is what we are charging.  If we replaced the carpet with tile or wood or vinyl, the charge to the tenant would still be the lost value on what we had to take out, not the value of the new product.  If we decide to do an upgrade, that's on us.

$100 for smoke damage and cigarette burns to vinyl flooring which required us to replace it prematurely.  Again, we depreciated the existing flooring and only charged for the value of it's remaining life.  We are upgrading that flooring to wood grain vinyl planks.

About your concrete stain.  A professional may be able to remove it.  But sometimes damages fall into a category where the item can not be effectively and reasonably brought back to the original condition.  Those are the hardest to assess.  We removed oil stains from concrete before, but the stain on your driveway looks exceptionally bad.  What did you try so far?  Specialized chemicals and pressure washing would be needed in my opinion.  Or you may need to stain the whole driveway to even out the color.  Hire a specialist.

Thanks for all the advice guy!
Latest Updates,  

As for the floor sweep, my tenant is a mechanic and I'm sure he has assess to that stuff.  One company I spoke to said that the stain will never come off and that I need to do a skim coat of concrete.

I got a phone call last night (Yard Sign) from the neighbors.  They told me that my tenant moved their trash and parked his truck across the street hoping that the trash company would pick up, but because of the size, they did not.  Can I remove that from his security deposit even tho it's no longer on my property?

Also, I got my first quote back from the smoke odor company.
- $275.00 Clean Ductwork
- $93.19 Clean Walls
- $52.28 Clean & Deodorize Carpet
- $33.40 Ozone treatment
That as just for the master bedroom, I won't go over everything, but the quote broke it down by room. (master bath, hallways, closets, etc.

Total is $1052.91.

Be a good community player.  Get the trash hauled out and charge the tenant for its removal.  That is, if you know for sure it was generated by your tenant while he occupied your property. :-)


I recall fa couple of your prior threads. There was the one about racially profiling tenants. And there was one where your tenant threatened to take you to small claims. Then, as now, you held deposit money for wear and tear items, for things not the tenants fault, and for very high labor rates to fix issues.

You really need to get over the idea that you are entitled to always receive the property back in exactly the condition it was in when you rented it. That just isn't so. Someday you will have a tenant who is savvy about these things, and you will learn a very, very expensive lesson. 

Just an update.  

This was what I found this morning.

Look like N. Las Vegas near Popeye chicken off Rancho in crack alley.

Joe Gore

That sucks @Bruce L.  

I have a few rental, but I really wouldn't know what to do with your situation.

@Phillip Dwyer   is a local property manager here in Vegas, maybe he has a suggestion.

@Bruce L.  If they leave trash in the yard, I would charge against the security deposit to remove.  

Thanks for the advice @Phillip Dwyer .

The tenant technical moved their trash away from my property across the street to the neighbors yard.  Then this morning, the trash was toss back onto my yard.  By who? I have no clue. It could of been the tenant or the neighbors.

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