Landlords typically charge tenants for cleaning to return the property to its previous state. However, that amount cannot include any normal wear and tear within the unit.
If the flooring is 20 years old in your apartment and develops a hole or gap, the landlord is not typically allowed to charge for a new replacement. So even if you are at fault and it’s not wear-related, your costs would be limited to the repair or current value of the item.
Since a landlord can charge to return an apartment to its original state when you moved in, what happens if the place was filthy when you arrived?
You have a few options to consider if the apartment you want to rent is dirty.
What to Do When Moving into a Dirty Apartment
When you move into a new apartment, you can document everything you see. Since July 14, 2019, your NYC landlord has been required to offer an inspection with you present, and you should request it.
After the inspection, the landlord must create a written agreement that notes any damage to the unit. This documentation should include the general cleanliness you found within the apartment.
Always inspect an apartment with a third person present to witness. It often helps to use a checklist to ensure that nothing gets missed in each room. Taking photographs of the unit with a copy of the day’s newspaper can prove the date of the image.
Your landlord cannot keep your security deposit to pay for pre-existing damage with this information.
Before moving out, repeat the process. Inspect the apartment with a witness, take photos, and perform a video walkthrough.
What Does It Mean to Have a Clean and Habitable Apartment?
Tenants in NYC have the right to live in a clean and habitable apartment. This aspect of the landlord-tenant laws is the “warranty of habitability.”
The right to have a clean and safe apartment to use is automatically part of the lease or rental agreement. So even if the documentation doesn’t say it, you still have it – and you cannot agree to give up this right, even if the landlord attempts to make it so with creative language.
Just because you decide to move into a filthy apartment doesn’t mean you’re accepting responsibility for its condition. That’s what the pre-move inspection manages. You could come to an agreement that says you’ll clean the unit in return for a discount on the next month’s rent or something applicable to your circumstances.
If you agree to restore the unit, you must return it to the clean, altered state when moving out. This is because your security deposit could get charged if you leave it a mess after.
What Happens If a Landlord Violates the Warranty of Habitability?
If an apartment does not have adequate hot water or heat regularly, your landlord is violating the warranty of habitability in most situations. A qualifying event might also occur when there is a failure to remove an insect infestation from the unit.
If you’re the one who is causing the unsafe situation, you’re responsible for fixing it. The things you do in the apartment are not the landlord’s responsibility.
When you feel that your landlord has committed this breach, you have several options available to consider. First, you’ll want to give written notice of the poor conditions and keep proof that you sent this paperwork.
Some tenants might have the option to sue the landlord for a rent reduction. If the landlord fails to make repairs or violates the warranty of habitability in other ways, it might be possible to withhold rent. These situations can have tricky legal consequences, so it’s advisable to get some help from an attorney.
Your best option to protect your finances, security deposit, and living situation are to conduct a thorough inspection of the apartment before moving. If you don’t like what you see, there is the choice to turn down a lease offer.
If you accept the apartment, the best option is to document everything. Returning it in a better state than you received it will typically allow you to receive the bulk of your security deposit back. Should you encounter a problem with a landlord withholding it, the best recourse would be to sue for the return of the funds. You must receive advanced notice before any deductions are jade.