Hardwood Flooring Damage Due to Improper Care

4 Replies

My tenants moved out and there is significant damage throughout due to improper care. My tenant rules and regulations document is clear about how to care for things like appliances and flooring. They signed it when the lease was renewed and I referred them back to it often and even made sure they had a fresh copy in their possession a few months prior to lease termination.

Just to provide some context for discussion, they had small kids and dogs and I expected some amount of wear and tear to the floors. The damage to the floor is excessive.

When I visited the property to inspect or make repairs I noticed that there was always a lot of dirt, broken toys, and sticky mess everywhere I looked. I have four young children myself and I understand that kids are messy, but this was more than most people would be comfortable living in and it was that way *every* time I visited the house. I had new windows installed last summer and when I moved their furniture, I could have easily filled a contractor bag with what lived underneath and behind it. It included things like dirt, sand, broken toys, uneaten food, articles of clothing and shoes. One time, they complained that the screen on the sliding glass door did not operate correctly. I pointed out that the track was full of dirt and debris and they needed only to clean it. I did it for them and applied some dry lube and it worked well again. I can give many other examples of their lack of care, but I think this paints a pretty good picture.

There was some damage to the hardwood flooring when they moved in caused by the last tenant. This was due to them waxing the floor and then running a steam mop over the surface, but there were only a few scratches because they kept it clean and took reasonably good care of things otherwise. All of the prior damage was noted on the move in inspection report tenants signed.

There is now SIGNIFICANT damage to the hardwood floor from lack of regular cleaning and maintenance. The floor is 3/4" oak in 3" and 6" widths and was professionally installed with several coats of Bona finish. I suggested in person and in the Tenant Rules document that they clean with Bona products or vinegar and water on a regular basis. They had dogs so some of the scratches were from dogs running and sliding but there were deep gouges caused by things being dropped on the floor and numerous deep scratches everywhere from things being dragged across the floor when it was dirty. I found very small pebbles in the area next to the sliding door and just one of these could have created scratches like that.

My issue is that I have no idea how to calculate how much we should deduct from their security deposit to pay for the refinishing. The National Homebuilders Association says that solid hardwood flooring has a "Lifetime" life expectancy so I can't calculate how much usable life should be left in the flooring and charge them the balance as you can do with carpeting.

It doesn't seem fair to charge them the entire cost to have the floors refinished. The quote I received on the refinishing is $1600.

How long should a hardwood floor last (with kids and dogs running around on it) if it has been properly cleaned on a regular basis, before it should be refinished? What would you deduct from the deposit if you were in my situation?

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I wonder where they are getting that 25 year expectancy on refinishing hardwood floors?

If that number is correct, it seems to me that the math calculation should go as follows:

25 year life expectancy - current age of flooring = loss of useful life

cost to refinish / 25 years = X

X * loss of useful life = tenant responsibility

Does that seem like a fair calculation?

The matter at hand is they did substantial damage (not wear and tear) during the short time they occupied your house.

You said there was some light scratches when they moved in. Not enough damage to justify any repairs and they were ok with the way the floors looked when they moved in. So based on this I don't see this as a math problem. I see this as they damaged the floors so bad that they now have to be refinished. 

So based on this information and my opinion I think charging them $1000 of the $1600 repair bill would be fair.

Maybe call your local magistrate and ask if this came before them in court what would they rule? They might not say, but they might.

Hopefully you have pictures from before and make sure to take pictures of the current damage.