How to handle hardwood floor damage with landlords?
March 16, 2017 9:06 AM   Subscribe

I am moving out of my current rental soon after several years. The property has light hardwood floors with a dark polyurethane(?) coating. I have a dog (approved by landlord), and from the dog plus furniture moving there are several places where at least the coating is scratched or worn away. However, there were also several spots when I moved in. Should I bring this up with the landlord directly and offer to recoat the floors, or just have them decide what to do about it? Complicating factors below.

Landlords are not professional renters. They have been very hands-off, but this is their first time renting a property (they used to live there), and I'm not convinced they understand the transition process. They have never done an inspection, and it's hard to know if they will completely freak out over the floor or just shrug it off. The floor is super high maintenance since the color contrast shows scratches so easily, but also the coating seems to have not been applied super well in the first place since it is so easy to peel off in some areas.

I don't mind paying some for this, but given how easily the floor shows wear, I'd consider most of it wear & tear. I think that a simple re-coating would fix most of the issues, without having to sand and refinish the floors.

Landlords have been really great for the several years I lived in this place, but they are being really annoying during the move out - trying to schedule open houses on the same day movers are there, showing the property before we vacate even though we gave them 2 months notice, etc. I want to be done with them ASAP.

Should I just return the keys and see how much they charge me, or should I bring it up proactively and offer to pay for a recoating?
posted by RobotNinja to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Wait until they complain first. If they want to charge for refinishing, that's the time to push back and compromise on a recoating. Did you or they take any photos or written notes about the "before" state?
posted by serelliya at 9:10 AM on March 16 [6 favorites]


Yes, just return the keys and wait. For all you know, they may be planning to redo the floor anyway, or they don't care. If they demand payment, point to the peeling issue, which definitely should not be happening, as evidence that the floor coating was damaged to begin with. If you, or they, recoat on top of this without sanding, that will not stop the peeling. But you should not have to pay for sanding necessitated by the poor original application. If necessary, negotiate down to a small payment to compensate for your own wear and tear rather than for a complete re-do.
posted by beagle at 9:14 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


I would consider scratches to a hardwood floor coating "normal wear and tear", turn in the keys and wait for them to complain. But it really depends on the tenants rights for your region and the relationship you have with the landlord. If they have free reign to keep your deposit on a whim, I'd want to get confirmation from them, in writing, that the damages shouldn't be held against me. If they have to provide an itemized list of damages and provide documentation about the state of the apartment before move-in to compare with move-out, I'd turn in the keys and let general landlord laziness work in my favor.
posted by dis_integration at 9:15 AM on March 16 [3 favorites]


Take pictures before you move out, even if you don't have photos from when you moved in (in future: always take photos of places you move into before/when you move).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:19 AM on March 16 [3 favorites]


I'd go to the hardware store and some wood stain the same color as the surface color and touch up the scratches.
posted by mareli at 9:29 AM on March 16


This is normal wear and tear
Do nothing
posted by JPD at 9:29 AM on March 16 [2 favorites]


Wear and tear. My pets scratched up the door digging, and I actually asked my landlord (a small time pro) about it and he basically shrugged. Damage would be if they had broken the door. Take photos and clean well when you move out.
posted by epanalepsis at 9:40 AM on March 16


This is normal wear and tear
Do nothing


What counts as normal here? It looks pretty bad, but it's partially because of the color contrast. Example: we had a floor mat down under an office desk, but it looks like some dirt must have gotten under the edge over time, so you can clearly see an outline of a big rectangular mat in one corner of the room. And where our dog goes between the living room and bedroom there's a ton of tiny scratches all along his route.
posted by RobotNinja at 9:40 AM on March 16


No, do not "do nothing." Carefully photograph the damage in bright daylight, and then return the keys and wait.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:47 AM on March 16 [4 favorites]


By the way, showing the rental before you vacate sounds normal to me. At least, that's my experience. It may vary from one market to the next.

But generally landlords are pretty anxious to minimize the time their rentals spend empty. I bet that goes extra for smaller landlords who don't have income from other properties coming in to tide them over.
posted by floppyroofing at 9:52 AM on March 16 [2 favorites]


If you can link us to some good photos, someone here might have some flooring/finishing knowledge to share about this situation? I'm not suggesting that you DIY refinish the floors, but if the owners get upset and claim that the cost of damage is $X, it might be nice to know a little more about it.
posted by desuetude at 10:16 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


Don't fix anything, and also don't freak out. If you rent a place out with hardwoods, you're going to have to expect a certain amount of life to happen to them. There are many methods for going about fixing it and that's the landlord's call, not yours.

It's really best to do an in-person walkthrough (while you have already taken pictures, but then also take pictures of any additional issues with the landlord and get them in the photo if you can) and discuss then. For stuff like that, I'm like "so...this is there *shrug*" and see what they do.

Never offer to pay, and be prepared to push back with "normal wear and tear". If they want any more money than your deposit, start having conversations then.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:39 AM on March 16


What counts as normal here?

How many are the "several" years you've been there?
posted by rhizome at 10:59 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


Put some olive oil on a paper towel and rub it on the scratches and they will mostly disappear. Rub away the excess. I have done this when I move out several times and never had a complaint about scratched floors.
posted by sexyrobot at 12:14 PM on March 16


Similar to sexyrobot's suggestion, I have seen videos of people rubbing different types of soft nuts or nut oils over scratches to match the colors. You may want to look into which nuts match closest to your floor color. Maybe walnut.

There are also cleaning products like Murphy's Oil Soap that may minimize the appearance of these scratches and the matt outline.
posted by Yorrick at 1:10 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


As a landlord and also a distributor of floor finishing products, take photos and DO NOTHING is the key here. Ok, try rubbing olive oil or what-have-you if you like, but don't whatever you do try to use any DIY floor finishing products.

After "several years" I would expect to refinish the floor. I try to do it between every tenancy, but sometimes if they're short and the next guys want in tomorrow I don't get the chance. It's normal wear and tear and part of the rent. The worst thing a tenant can do is buy some awful floor product and paint it all over the surface. Then that has to be removed too...
posted by tillsbury at 2:59 PM on March 16 [3 favorites]


My husband is now routinely cleaning up spots where I drip gin when making martinis (yes I do feel classy) with a hair dryer. The gin bleaches out the floor where it drips, he heats the varnish around it and smears it to cover it up with a paper towel. It works great.

I know that he does on a regular basis but I would still spot check before over-committing to my random internet anecdote.

In the meantime I'm going to order a cocktail shaker that doesn't leak all over the place. After I make the next martini.

There's also a product called "Liquid Gold" that's sold in regular supermarkets. It's sorta old fashioned but works a treat quite often.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:45 PM on March 16 [3 favorites]


Ask for a move-out inspection including photos. Whatever assessment you can get from the landlord in writing will inform what you need to do and give you their opinion of exactly what you need to fix.
posted by bendy at 6:47 PM on March 16


Landlord here. Is it very highly unlikely to be a good idea for you to try to DIY repairing this. Even if you get charged for it, your landlord probably can't (I mean, they can try) charge you the full cost of refinishing the entire floor. However, a botched repair job is a definite reason that the floors need to be refinished right away, and for the botcher (you) to be on the hook for much of that cost.

Beyond that, I'd have to see the damage to comment.
posted by cmoj at 10:54 AM on March 17 [1 favorite]


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