The Landlord’s Itemized List of Common Tenant Deposit Deductions

by | BiggerPockets.com

Nothing motivates a tenant more to replace their dead light bulbs than knowing that if they don’t, it could cost them $5 per bulb for us to hire someone else to do it. This Itemized List of Common Deposit Deductions is fairly generic and includes a statement that says, “This list has been prepared for your information only. Actual charges will vary.” The point of this list is to simply motivate your tenant to do as much themselves as possible because, let’s face it, moving is not fun. It’s a lot of hard work, and by the time the tenant gets everything moved out and into their new place, the last thing they want to do is deep clean and get the home they have lived in for years returned to move-in condition.

The responsible ones will buck up and do it anyway. It’s those others you’ve got to impress the importance upon that they need to do it themselves—which is where this list comes in.

In reality, some things may cost more, some less, but the point is to let the tenant see with their own eyes that it will cost them, probably a lot more than they think.

Related: How to Hone Your Screening Process to Ensure Better Tenants

The Landlord’s Itemized List of Common Tenant Deposit Deductions

[This article is an excerpt from Brandon Turner’s The Book on Managing Rental Properties.]

Landlords: Does your deposit deduction list look similar? Anything you’d add or change?

Be sure to leave a comment below!

About Author

Brandon Turner

Brandon Turner (G+ | Twitter) spends a lot of time on BiggerPockets.com. Like... seriously... a lot. Oh, and he is also an active real estate investor, entrepreneur, traveler, third-person speaker, husband, and author of "The Book on Investing in Real Estate with No (and Low) Money Down", and "The Book on Rental Property Investing" which you should probably read if you want to do more deals.

25 Comments

  1. Cindy Larsen

    BRandon,

    Great detailed list. Although, if a cleaning oerson tried to charge me those prices, I’d find someone who works by the hour and get multiple $25 items done for each $25 hour. or maybe $20/hr. Of course, that’s not the point: motivating the tenant tomeither do amgreat job of cleNing, or not complain when you keep their deposit is obviously the point. So, what do you do when they do a mostly ok job of cleaning: nitpick every detail, or just get your own cleaning people to go over the place, and pay for it out of your vacancy reserves?

    I’ve only been a landlord for 2.5 years, and haven’t had anyone move out yet. I did take detailed pictures of the condition of the property, with the tenants present when I signed the leases on both properties. My idea was to use the pictures to determine what things needed to be fixed, replaced, or cleaned to get the property back to move in condition.

    • Katie Rogers

      Exactly. No landlord is actually spending anywhere close to those amounts, especially for cleaning. the most I ever spent on cleaning for a place was truly a mess, taking the cleaner a full two days at $25/hour was $400. Most of the other stuff on the list is normal wear and tear, and not chargeable to the tenant. Most of what’s left is maintenance the landlord is responsible for. Almost nothing on that list is actually chargeable to the tenant.

      Years ago, I rented a place with zero light bulbs in the fixtures. When I left, I gave the unit back with zero light bulbs in the fixtures. What goes around comes around.

      • Katie says: “Almost nothing on that list is chargeable to the tenant”

        Well Katie, I’m not sure you’re actually a landlord….but if you are….you have an unusual take on what is a tenant responsibility and what is not.

        Dirt is not normal wear and tear. Destruction of window blinds is not normal wear and tear. Holes of any type in the walls are not normal wear and tear unless you specifically give permission in writing to put holes in the wall. The tenant is responsible for returning the property to the landlord in the exact same condition that is was turned over to them. That’s the condition contained within the right to quiet enjoyment given to the tenant in return for their custodianship of the property. The fact is, unless something in your state landlord/tenant laws specify otherwise…..about the only thing considered normal wear and tear is sun fading of surfaces.

        • Katie Rogers

          You did not read the comment very carefully. Tenants are not responsible for the sort of “deep” cleaning on this list. They are responsible for leaving the place what is known as “broom clean.” The dirty place I described cost $400 to clean, not the $1000 suggested on this list.

          Speaking of window blinds, the littlest gust of wind can twist the vertical blinds right off in an instant. That is not the tenant’s fault. Horizontal blinds are notoriously flimsy. Just raising them up and down can bend them. The string and stick mechanism for controlling them is extremely weak. Normal wear and tear can easily break the mechanism.

          I have met landlords who try to charge a tenant for cleaning even if the tenant returns the unit in immaculate condition. There are a lot of landlords who have higher expectations of tenants, if they can profit thereby, than they have of themselves. If a landlord puts flimsy stuff in their units, and it breaks, that should be on the landlord.

        • Katie Rogers

          So very glad you never came home to find a vertical blind mysteriously laying the the floor. So very glad you never moved into a place to find the edges of horizontal blinds already bent, and the moving mechnisms already finicky.

  2. Stephen S.

    I now equip every rental unit with all LED lightbulbs. I also build custom high efficiency A/C systems. In my lease is clearly states that when I get the unit back – there will be LED bulbs in all the fixtures Or there will be a charge for me to install them.

    A tenant who had remarked repeatedly about how low his electric bill was – although in the last year it had been creeping up noticeably – recently left. About 75% of the bulbs in the fixtures were Not LED.

    I asked him why and he said: LED bulbs were too expensive – so I cheaped-out and used the cheap kind.

    Why would you do that? It makes zero sense to me. I am going to charge you probably double or triple what you could have bought the LED bulbs for AND you could have had the low-electric-bill advantage of them while you were actually living there. This way you paid a higher electric bill AND are going to be buying LED bulbs anyway – but now for someone Else’s benefit – why?

    I couldn’t afford the LED bulbs – they cost too much.

    How did you afford the higher electric bill then?

    I don’t know – I never thought about that.

    • Having a detailed list that is defensible in court as well as being transparent with the tenant is simply a best business practice. Each landlord should have their list that is appropriate for the quality of their units and cost of services in their area. What is missing from this list is the depreciable life of common items, remember your tenant does not owe you $500 for a room of carpet if it is 15 years old, or the replacement cost of a 25 year old range etc. I include the depreciable lives of common capital items including the interior paint, blinds, carpet, laminate floors, range etc. I have never been challenged about a deposit report and have issued many hundreds. I always tell tenants when they move in that I like to give deposits back, we all make more money this way.

  3. Pavel K.

    Does this list need to be signed off on by the tenant so that they understand they are responsible if things need to be fixed at the time security deposit is given back? And do you get them to sign it at the time of lease signing? Just curious how you enforce this. Or do you incorporate the entire list into the lease agreement addendum?

    • I use an addendum that outlines tenant responsibilities, cleaning charges, fees for and what constitutes damage. Since we rent single family, also included are some pertinent city requirements, such as no parking on grass, fines for not doing snow removal etc. By including a clause above the signature line to the effect that the property owner reserves the right to amend or revoke these rules and regulations contained in the addendum at any time and are subject to review and change at any time, any changes made will be in effect at the time they are presented and made a part of the agreement as of their effective date. Our state law provides that any changes made under these circumstances merely need to be posted in a place that the tenant is likely to see them or presented directly to the tenant to be in effect.
      I do everything using a core lease and then various addendum to accomplish management of the lease. I allows for immediate changes and response without having to cast a new lease for signature. The signature on the original addendum authorizes changes without signature. Check with your own legal advisor to know what is true in your state’s laws.

      • Katie Rogers

        “The signature on the original addendum authorizes changes without signature.” See, here’s the thing. You have basically turned the lease into a one-sided document instead of a mutual agreement between both parties. So now the question is how much lead time does a tenant have to accept or reject your changes.

        • From within my post:
          “any changes made will be in effect at the time they are presented and made a part of the agreement as of their effective date”

          “allows for immediate changes and response without having to cast a new lease”

        • Katie Rogers

          Your lease would be illegal in California for the reason I specified. The tenant should have an opportunity to reject the changes and seek other housing in at least the same time frame as the notice they would be required to give or you are required to give them. In California, that is thirty days if the tenant has been in residence less than a year and sixty days if the tenant has been in residence over a year. The reason that your lease would be illegal and thus unenforceable is because you have removed one essential feature of contracts–agreement by both parties. There can be no blank checks(which is what you are trying to create), and you may find if you are challenged, that your contract would be ruled null and void. Regardless of what your state law allows, if you were a tenant, you would probably not like such a feature in your lease. The Golden Rule says we should not have provisions we are ourselves would object to if we were tenants.

        • I don’t force anyone to sign anything.

          Now, since I’m both an attorney and in Ohio, your comment, besides having no basis in fact (you have conflated multiple concepts into something you think is a law), has no bearing on how I do things ….. especially since California has no jurisdiction anywhere other than California….even if you knew what you’re talking about. I’ve been a contract lawyer for 45 years…..my lease is legal. My addendum are separate, but enforceable itemized schedules….which I might add, you’ve never set eyes on and yet think you know how and why they aren’t legal.. I am certain that you are not an attorney and are just spouting here…..as you did above in another comment. Stop trolling and get a lawyer to explain how your opinions are wrong.

        • Katie Rogers

          It might be legal in Ohio, but legal is not always equivalent to the right thing to do. That is my point. I never said your tenants were forced to sign it. However, since according to you , you can change the lease anytime without notice, tenants might be surprised at what they actually agreed to. It sound like it violates the Golden Rule.

          I am not “trolling.” And hopefully BP is not an echo chamber. I never forget what it felt like to be a tenant.

  4. Rio Tomlin

    I would love to implement something like this for our units in NYC and in Austin. However, what’s the best way to have these upfront and agreed to in the lease? As an addendum/rider to the lease, and when signing lease, after our existing rider with site-specific rules and expectations, include this along with a few sentences explaining that unless all the above are met, deductions from security will be incurred as follows?

    • James M Smith

      I include it as an addendum on the original lease and initial every page. I havent had somone contest my charges so I cant say if this would hold up in court if pressed but perhaps having them sign this upfront discourages someone from feeling like they can contest. And I cant imagine a Judge not looking favorably on this being disclosed upfront. (but I always maintain the right to be surprised)

    • James M Smith

      Hey Tony, The Short: I include something similar as an addendum to the lease and have them initial every page and date. This way if they dispute a charge I can say they agreed at the time of signing the lease.
      The long: I agree this is a great tool to use. I dont think it matters in this instance but our properties are in Texas. I have a welcome letter as an addendum to the Lease that indicates I want to give them their security depost back with one or two sentences why it is in both our best interest. I also explain that these are also their responsibilities while they live in the home and if they want us to manage some of their responsibilities for them these aproxamet costs are what they could expect to pay in addition to rent (i.e, lightbulb replacment, yard maintenance, etc). In many cases they choose to manage it themselves or pay someone who is cheaper then me (which is great because I dont want to do these things). For me this is incentive for them to do what they have contractually agreed to do and not a revenue source. I honestly love when I get to return an entire security deposit because I cut that check and typically have another tenent lined up to move in the next day or couple days.

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