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Tina, Attorney
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Satisfied Customers: 33167
Experience:  17 years legal experience including landlord/tenant law.
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My son and 3 roommates recently vacated an apartment they had

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My son and 3 roommates recently vacated an apartment they had leased for 6 months. The landlord has sent them to collections for $1600 to cover painting, lightbulbs and carpet replacement. The carpet was damaged in 2 rooms and we agreed to pay that cost but requested the square footage as we said we would not pay for one room which had no damage. They sent us a bill for carpeting the entire apartment. They are also charging over $600 to repaint the walls. The walls were not damaged, there were a few scuff marks, which was normal wear and tear. We have pictures of the walls, they are in excellent condition. They have charged over $30 for 3 lightbulbs that we do not feel are valid charges. What is our best course of action in responding to the collection agency. We are in Washington state.

Hello and welcome.

My name is XXXXX XXXXX my goal is to provide you with excellent service today. I am sorry to hear of your difficult situation. Before I can give you an accurate answer to your question, please provide the following additional information:

Was there any language in the lease agreeing to pay for painting the unit upon termination of the lease and move-out? Did your son and roommates stay for the entire term of the lease?

I look forward to assisting you as soon as I have received this information. Thank you.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Yes, they stayed the entire time of the lease, gave proper notification of their move out date. We were unable to get the landlord to do a walk-thru with the tenants after 2 separate attempts on the same day. The charges were sent after the apartment was vacated.


In the lease agreement, there is a "wear and tear" schedule with charges for cleaning, painting, etc. It does not state that the tenant is responsible for the charges, just list what they are and the tenants initialed. In the same schedule, it does list that damages to carpets, etc will be charged at 100%. The painting portion says "All painting is charged at a rate of $60 per hour. This charge includes labor and material". There is no mention of lightbulbs anywhere in the lease agreement.


They did also try to charge them $200 for cleaning, but I insisted on a walk-thru with the landlord after that. She was extremely uncooperative, but agreed to take that off the charges since she knew she had refused an in person walk-thru before vacating. Hope this helps.

Hello again, Sheila, and thank you for providing this additional information.

Could you clarify what the wear and tear schedule does indicate? What appears to be the intent of including the schedule, that the tenant would be charged for wear and tear?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I will type it in specifically:


Wear and Tear Schedule


1. All painting is charged at a rate of $60 per hour. This charge includes labor and material.


2. All wallboard, carpet/linoleum, window covering, appliances, fixtures, etc. damages are 100% charge regardless of length of residency.


3. All exterior doors, patio/balconies, screens, carports, buildings, etc. damages are 100% charge regardless of length of residency.


4. All interior and exterior apartment and window covering cleaning charges are 100% regardless of length of residency.


5. All smoke damage, pet damage and pest service charges are 100% regardless of length of residency.


6. All carpet cleaning must be professionally performed, arranged for by Resident Manager, and are 100% charge regardless of length of residency.


Below that is a revision schedule of charges basically increasing the painting charge to $65 and hour, and showing the hourly rate for carpet cleaning, and other cleaning charges, for the size of apartment (studio, 1 bedroom, etc.)


There is a line below this that says (resident must initial) and they initialed on that line. It seems to me that the painting purposely excludes the word "damage" so as to imply acknowledgement of the charges. This is my point, the apartment did NOT need repainting, there were a few nail holes, scuff marks where the couch was against the wall, and one handprint over the doorway. Normal wear and tear.

I see. Thank you very much for providing this additional information, Sheila. It was very helpful.

This language does not appear to bind the tenant to pay for painting where only normal wear and tear have occurred, so I would typically dispute that charge in writing by certified mail so you have proof the dispute was received by the landlord.

I would also indicate that you have photos of the property upon move-out to show that the carpet was not damaged in the one room so you refuse to pay for that; then request again the amount for the damages you did agree to pay.

The new translucent light bulbs are more expensive, so they could cost close to the amount being charged by the landlord, but if there is no way for the landlord to prove whether those bulbs were out when the property was rented or you do not believe they really needed to be replaced, I would dispute those charges as well.

Depending on the landlord's response, you may also wish to send a written dispute report to your credit reporting agencies. Under federal law, if the credit reporting agencies cannot substantiate the debt, they must remove it within 30 days.

Here is a link to the FTC's website which summarizes your rights and provides a sample dispute letter:

I hope this helps clarify the situation for you. Please remember to rate my service once you have all the information you need so I will be compensated for my time from the deposit you posted with this website. If you have any other questions, please ask me – I’ll be happy to respond. Thank you!


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