One of the most often asked questions is, “How much can I charge a tenant who causes damage to the carpet in his or her apartment?”
While the Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act does not directly address carpet loss, there is case law in Arizona that does. This article will offer some guidance in assessing carpet damage.
A.R.S. § Sec. 33-1341 states in part:
“The tenant shall not deliberately or negligently destroy, deface, damage, impair or remove any part of the premises or knowingly permit any person to do so.”
Generally, a tenant has a legal obligation to return an apartment in the same condition as when originally rented, normal wear and tear excepted. Carpet damage usually results from pets tearing the carpet or urinating on it, or from human error, food and drink stains or cigarette burns.
In the matter of Devine v. Buckler, the court illustrates how it reacted when it found a tenant responsible for carpet damage in an apartment unit.
At issue in this case was whether the plaintiff sufficiently proved they suffered a loss as a result of having to replace carpeting that had been ruined through negligent workmanship by the tenant while attempting to dye it. The Court of Appeals determined that “plaintiffs were entitled to recover an amount that would put them in the position they were in before they were injured.”
The court stated:
In determining actual value, a trial judge has wide latitude. Depending upon the particular conditions and circumstances, he may consider the cost of the property when new, the length of time it was used, its condition at the time of loss or injury, the expense to the owner of replacing it with another item of like kind and in similar condition, and any other factors that will assist in assessing the value to the owner at the time of loss or injury.
The carpet was approximately three years old when ruined. Its original cost was $13.00 per yard. The trial court awarded the plaintiffs $10.00 per yard.
The evidence clearly proved three points: 1) The entire carpet was damaged; 2) It was in excellent condition at the time the loss occurred; 3) Its replacement cost should be depreciated based on the value the owner had already received from its use.
In order to meet the burden of proof, the landlord first must show the tenant actually caused the damage. Helpful items to include are a move in and move out checklist, photographs and a sample of the damaged carpet.
It is the policy of law in civil cases to award only those damages that will fairly and adequately compensate the injured party.
If a landlord is entitled to any recovery, it will be the replacement cost for rooms actually damaged minus the depreciated value that takes into account the number of years the ruined carpet had been in use.
AS AN EXAMPLE CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING:
“Four tenants rent an apartment at the Jigger In/Stumble Out apartment complex. The residents, Dee U. Eye, Bud Y. Zurr, Jack Daniels and Jim Beam, lease an apartment with brand new carpet. Six months later they leave and the carpet is completely urine soaked from their unauthorized pets. Manager, Dee P. Ess, sues the former residents for complete carpet replacement. Judge E.Z. Life, awards all the carpet cost since it was brand new only six months before move in.