Cat Urine Odor...Security Deposit.

13 Replies

My inherited tenant is vacating this month and has already moved out. She gave me permission to paint and get the carpets cleaned ahead of actual vacating (mistake?). I have always smelled cats but assumed/hoped the smell was in their furniture. The place is empty, the floors look great, new paint looks great but the smell is still there. I have located the biggest problem area which is in a gap between the laminate flooring and the door jam. But, I think the the problem is pervasive throughout the first floor. Don't even know about the carpets on the 2nd floor yet. Preliminary research points to the possibilty that I might have to replace the floor and even the sub floor. I'm concerned about having to keep all or some of the $1400 security deposit and getting sued.

More info. She gave her notice 14 days into my ownership. I raised her rent to include additional pet fees. She only had 2 pets on her lease but had 4 living with her. I'm not sorry to see her go. 2 labs and 2 cats in 1046 sqft 2 level town home was inappropriate. So, my point is, I don't have any track record with her to know what she is likely to do. Don't want to eat the cost of the floor...don't want my new tenants to smell the odor...don't want to get sued. How shall I proceed wisely?

Each state is a little different in regards to landlord/tenant law and how pro landlord they are, etc.. However, we deal with this all the time and charging legitimate costs is an owner's right. That is not to say that she can't sue you or try, but you have the law on your side as well as the evidence (take lots of pictures). It would certainly help is you had some sort of record of the condition of the unit before she moved in as well...otherwise she could claim that "it was that way when she moved in".

Thanks for the advice Mendell.

before you go replacing floors and coverings try the enzyme odor eliminators at the pet stores, usually more than one application is required and a few days to work but they do get rid of a lot of it. But you need to get it on the stains to work so you'll have to peel back carpet/pad to get to the sub-floor stains. Treat the carpet, pad and floor or you'll be doing yourself a dis-service.

Don't be concerned about keeping deposit funds when it's justified. Keep records to support yourself.

You may not need to replace the subfloors. I have heard of some really great products out there that are made specifically to rid of cat urine odor.

@Ginny Watson

You may want to try an ozone machine as well. You can rent them pretty cheap, just be careful with them as none is supposed to enter while its running. I had a pretty nasty smelling house and the ozone machine cleared it right up. Also try cleaning all the duct work as well. Good luck!

Ginny;

I make an Itemized record of all repairs and cost's, this includes everything, light bulbs,blinds, paint, cleaning behind stove and fridge what ever the costs to make the property ready to rent again. I guarantee you, depending on the tenant, the invoice will be higher the there deposit, let them challenge it, they will lose every time.

As per the urine smell, I bought a run down 8 unit apartment building, each unit was so bad the 1st thing that burned where your eyes, the 2nd was your lungs from the smell, each and every unit.

Pull the carpet and padding, then go take a shower, its grouse, then wash walls with heavy bleach water, then pour and scrub heavy bleach water in to sub floor until it is soaked. open windows let dry and air out for a few days. Paint floors and walls with oil based kills stain blocker a couple of times, smell gone. it will be harder for urine smell to penetrate that barrier.

As to the future of pets, My DAMAGE deposit is 575, if there is A cat or A small dog I add 475 for a total of 1000, this covers the cost of replacing the carpet. I have it written in the lease as well as the rules and regs attachment that they sign and agree to, if I smell urine they bought me new carpet........  The only people who take me up on this are people who take care of there pets. So far So good.

Good luck

Mike

As a cat owner I can testify that this actually has worked better than pet store solutions in our house:

First mix vinegar and water 50/50 and soak the area

When almost dry soak the area with a mix of 1 cup hydrogen peroxide (3%
) mixed with 1 teaspoon of dish soap. Sprinkle baking soda on top and let it dry

It removes the smell and the enzymes as well. On hard surface you might need to repeat...

The most common place that pet odors stick in is the carpet padding. I wouldn't do any turnover work until the tenant has vacated. If the cats are the reason the flooring is damaged, it should come out of her deposit. Just document it as much as possible.

In Oregon, if there was no check-in/check-out sheet then you are pretty much SOL. You have to be able to prove that the damage was not there prior to the tenant moving in, her having pets doesn't prove anything. That is if it went to court, chances are she doesn't have the means to sue you so you can try it and see what happens but it is a risk and probably not the best way to run a business. If you do have the original rental agreement, and more specifically, a check-in sheet that she signed showing the unit is in good shape with no smells or other issues then go sick.

As far as the flooring goes, you shouldn't need to replace the sub-floor unless it's rotted out. Pull up the flooring, scrub the sub-floor with your cleaner/disinfectant of choice, then set up some fans, let it all dry out, and throw down a coat or two of KILZ Original primer. All other surfaces should just need scrubbed unless the actual urine sat on them and soaked in. You could also try scent bombs after cleaning everything to get rid of any remaining smell.

I don't know OR law, but make sure you do the move-out by the book, including any notices that are supposed to include the law regarding their rights, any pre-move-out inspection procedures, etc., etc.  

Then, if you do the work yourself, take pictures of you doing the work, and maybe a video.  If you have someone else do any work, or rent machines, etc., take pics and keep receipts.

I agree with documenting every little thing, and if that adds up to more than the security deposit, you can use this to negotiate with the tenant to settle out of court.

She knows the cats stunk up the place.  So, when she gets her itemization that says her security deposit is gone, and she owes you an additional $300, she won't be completely surprised.  

And then she'll be happy to see the extra agreement you included with the itemization that says if she signs it, you will waive the additional $300, if she agrees not to take you to court, and that she should know that if she loses in court, you will also be asking the judge to have her pay the full amount and your court costs, too.  So, since you'd really rather avoid any court action, you're willing to forgo the additional $300 as a means of settling the account. :-)

That's what I'd do, anyway.  You'd have to decide if you're okay with something like that.  At minimum, it should get her to call you rather than just file, and you might be able to work something out that you're okay with and that is worth settling out of court.

Good luck!

First check you local state laws!  Than I "personally" would charge her to the fullest extent the state allows! Pet problems can be expensive!

Originally posted by @Mike Campbell :

Ginny;

I make an Itemized record of all repairs and cost's, this includes everything, light bulbs,blinds, paint, cleaning behind stove and fridge what ever the costs to make the property ready to rent again. I guarantee you, depending on the tenant, the invoice will be higher the there deposit, let them challenge it, they will lose every time.

As per the urine smell, I bought a run down 8 unit apartment building, each unit was so bad the 1st thing that burned where your eyes, the 2nd was your lungs from the smell, Ginnyeach and every unit.

Pull the carpet and padding, then go take a shower, its grouse, then wash walls with heavy bleach water, then pour and scrub heavy bleach water in to sub floor until it is soaked. open windows let dry and air out for a few days. Paint floors and walls with oil based kills stain blocker a couple of times, smell gone. it will be harder for urine smell to penetrate that barrier.

As to the future of pets, My DAMAGE deposit is 575, if there is A cat or A small dog I add 475 for a total of 1000, this covers the cost of replacing the carpet. I have it written in the lease as well as the rules and regs attachment that they sign and agree to, if I smell urine they bought me new carpet........  The only people who take me up on this are people who take care of there pets. So far So good.

Good luck

Mike

 Ginny , mike know his stuff. our first house had 9 dogs in it before the foreclosure. I talked to a professional painter friend. he had me spray a clorox /water  mix on all the walls about knee high down. and spray door frames heavy.  carpet was gone. and so was feces. when I got there, we sprayed, painted and you cant tell it was ever there.  another house had 13 cats In it. cats spray the walls . spray from waist down. again our carpet was replaced.

That day the realtor that showed me the cat house sure was a trooper. She stayed as long as I wanted to inspect the house.  She just closed another one for me last week. We will be doing business for years.

sorry to resurrect this old thread, but this seems relevant: what is the way to get a proof that the house stinks terribly after tenant moves out?

Thank you all in advance!

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