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Posts: 6
Reply with quote  #1 

In my lease I clearly stated that there is NO SMOKING allowed in the premises and also cover that any debris from smoking outside needs to be disposed of inside after properly extinguished- however we noticed that the tenant continued smoking in the apt for almost a year..She would also open the bathroom window in the winter time when she smoked in the bathroom. The heat and HW is included in the rent and we had to speak to them on several occasions for opening windows in the dead of winter - our heating bill this year was 800.00 more than last year. Long story short, we realized when spring came and the snow disappeared that we have quite a collection of cigarette butts on our lawn directly beneath their bathroom window.
Can I charge them for this in any way from their security deposit?
I also had to replace their toilet because they accidently dropped a pencil in it and it was constantly clogged. Again they left the window to the bathroom open in the dead of winter for weeks when this happened and never informed us of how bad it was until we commented on the window being open. Can I charge them for having to replace the toilet from the security deposit?

Thanks so much


Posts: 3,814
Reply with quote  #2 
Cleaning up accumulated smoking materials when the lease clearly addresses this would be a legitimate deduction.  She knew, per the lease, what she had to do with the cigarette butts.  She failed to folow through on an obligation.
Keep it reasonable, an hourly charge for picking up these materials would be OK.  If your state does not allow you to charge for your time or labor, hire a teenager to do the job and subtract what you pay him.

The time to address the smoking in the house, the open window, and the increased utility costs was when it was occurring.  A letter of lease violation should have been sent to the tenant at that time.  Followed by a perform or quit notice.  Since winter is over and the bills have been paid, it is too late to address this.  Why do you include heating & HW costs?  Are more than one unit served by the same gas line?  If so, find a way to seperate them.  You shouldn't be paying this.

You may also deduct the costs of cleaning the smoke from the walls inside (especially in the bathroom) since it was clear that there would be no smoking in the house.  This is a lease violation.  Wash the walls down and charge a reasonable hourly rate.  Again, if your state doesn't allow your labor charges, hire someone to do this.

Can I ask why the entire toilet had to be replaced?  You should have been able to pull up the old one and clear the obstruction, then replace it (possibly using new bolts and a new wax ring of course).  Any plumber could have done this.  The cost of the repair would have been much less than the cost of a new toilet.  I don't think you could get by with the cost of entire new toilet unless they actually, physically broke the old one.  You could, however, charge her for the cost of what the repair would have been.

Posts: 6
Reply with quote  #3 
Well we called plumbers and the hourly rate was 50 -75 an hr, so after several attempts to try and remedy the problem with toilet snakes and clog liquids we just went ahead and replaced it because the toilet was pretty old anyway, and we had no idea what the problem was. The toilet cost us about 135, the plumber would have been about the same if not more because we ran into an issue getting the toilet back on due to a cast iron flange being damaged (flange not their fault but still time consuming due to the initial problem created with the pencil leading to the repair) . So what took my hubby 4 hrs to repair would probably have taken a plumber 1.5 -2 hrs of just getting the toilet back on. Honestly we didn't mind replacing the toilet. What really bothered us was how they never communicated to us the seriousness of the problem. When we went up to fix it the window was open and had been for days, and it was just disgusting.  This was about 3 months ago - last month we evicted them because we found the windows open again in cold weather (NH is cold even into mid April we had 3 snow storms) and I just had enough in addition to domestic violence issues constantly as well.

The other issue is I know that the boyfriend is going to want to wait and see what our deductions from the security deposit will be and offer to do the work himself instead if us charging for it- IE: cleaning the resinated walls and pick up yard butts..I am uncomfortable with this because he had until june 1st to do it and did not. Should I tell him that after the 1st I would rather him not be back on the premises?

Lastly he only returned one key to us so far, we gave them each a set of 3 keys for the outside and inside doors- we know they lost the girlfriends set already - so do we charge them to replace the locks?

Thank you so much for your time


Posts: 3,814
Reply with quote  #4 
First you need to find out if your state allows you to charge for your time to make repairs.  (Not all states allow the landlords to charge for their time, only some states do.)  If your state doesn't allow this, you cannot charge anything for the 4 hours it took your husband to replace the toilet. 

Also, since you replaced it instead of repairing it, the former tenants may challenge the cost of a new toilet in court.  They may claim that this was an improvement or an upgrade that you chose to do.  A court would most likely only award you for the depreciated value of the old toilet (just as if they damaged old carpeting).  What is the depreciated value of an old toilet - very little.  No more than $20-30 probably.  He may award additional labor costs if they are allowed.  So replacing that toilet may not be deductable if challenged in court.  However, the cost of the plumber to pull it up and clear the obstruction would have all been deductable.  They would have been unable to argue with that in court.  (Also, you will have to depreciate the new toilet on your taxes over a number of years as an improvement instead of subtracting the entire cost of a repair on this year's taxes.)  

Draino and snakes often don't clear toilet clogs.  (I don't like to use Draino type stuff ever.)  Many times there are items trapped in the bottom of the toilet.  (Small kids often drop things in the toilet to watch it flush down.  I don't know why.)  Drain it, pull up the toilet, clear it from below, clean the old ring off, replace the wax ring, reset the toilet.  Best way to do it.

Domestic violence issues are another trouble spot.  A victim of domestic violence is not supposed to be evicted, but allowed to move out and break a lease.  (Not my rules.)  The reasoning is that the one assaulted is a victim of a crime that could put their life in danger.  This is one of the 2 legal reasons where you must allow someone to break a lease.  (Yeah, I know, she probably took him right back after that too, didn't she?)  I'm assuming she didn't challenge the eviction on this basis so maybe she doesn't know this.  Beside you probably evicted over non-payment.  By the way, the other reason is for a current military service member who is being deployed.

If you send the BF the list of charges from the SD, you should have already performed (or had someone else perform if you can't deduct for your labor) all the work on the list or else mark the item as "estimated cost".  If the work is already done, the point of him performing it is moot.  You do not have to allow him back onto the property to perform obligations that he should have done prior to vacating.  (At least not in my state you don't.)  He had the opportunity to do this work before he turned over possession.  Plus, you never have to let anyone who was legally evicted by a court back onto the property without the court ordering you to do so.  Tell him that it is too late.

Many leases have a set fee built into them for key replacement/rekeying.  My states that a tenant will be charged $40 if they fail to return all the keys issued.  That amount would be higher in a unit with more doors or lower in a one door unit.  But, I have a series of locks that I rotate between properties.  The locks that were in one place get reused in another place across town.  When a set breaks or gets worn out, I buy a new set and continue to rotate.  That way each tenant gets a new set of locks.  (Even if the old tenant kept copies of the keys, they won't work there now and the previous tenant wouldn't know what property they would work on.)  Again, find out if you can charge for your time.  If not, have a relative do it & charge the tenant.  Charge the cost of labor and the price of new locks.

And remember to get that itemized statement of deductions from the security deposit to your ex-tenants within the timeframe allowed by your state.  If you miss the timeframe, the tenant can sue for more than the deposit.  IN some places, they can ask for 3 times the deposit back.  Good luck rerenting.
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