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We just moved into a rental house, and found the place filthy! What do we do?
July 31, 2006 8:36 PM   Subscribe

We just moved into a rental house, and found the place filthy! What do we do?

This past weekend, my wife and I moved cross-country to Charlotte, North Carolina. It was a pretty arduous trip - I drove a crazy, rickety moving van and the heat was unbearable, among other things. After a two-day trip, we arrived to find our rental house in an almost uninhabitable state.
It was filthy. Everything needed to be scrubbed within an inch of its life with bleach and everyother anti-bacterial, anti-microbial cleaner we could find. My wife's hesitant to use the kitchen! Holes in the walls, stains on carpeting, etc.
We saw the house about a month and a half ago, and while we saw it definitely needed a good washout, we were assured by the "property manager" that it would be given a good cleaning before we arrived. In fact, if given a good hardcore scrubbing and basic maintenence, the house would be really great. There were some other issues we needed to have taken care of before we arrived (knobs and handles missing from various appliances, some maintenence, etc.) and we noted them on the lease when we signed. Most of those things were taken care of, but our biggest issue is how dirty the house is.
Our landlord lives out of town, but explained that most of the day-to-day and maintenence issues would be taken care of by the "property manager." I only use that term in quotes because I'm not sure exactly her official role or title. Apparently, the landlord and the "property manager" used to have some kind of relationship, and after it ended they remained friends. He now lives out of town and left his ex-girlfriend to take care of this property for him. She was the one who told us that she'd "clean it up really well" and the place would look great once we arrived.
Once we did arrive and saw the places wasn't clean, we called our landlord and briefly explained the situation. He said he paid the "property manager" a lot of money to clean it up, and was interested in knowing how she did. It could seem like the "property manager" just didn't realize that we were moving in on that date - but I'm not sure.
Now here's where we don't know how to proceed.
We'd like to maintain a pretty amicable relationship w/ our landlord. He wasn't around to supervise the prep for the new tenants. All we would like is for the place to be cleaned real well and a fresh coat of paint. We'd be willing to do the work ourselves, and receive a discount in rent if he can't get someone to clean and paint. How would we address this in a way that will ensure we get some results, yet still maintain an amicible relationship? That's key for us, because our landlord hinted that he may be interested in selling the house in a year or two, and if that's the case, we might be interested in buying (if it passes inspection) and don't want to burn our bridges in this crazy housing market.
posted by itchi23 to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm unclear on what you said. You told your landlord what happened, but he asked how she did?

I would just make it clear to him that it was not in appropriate condition and needs substantial work. You might say that you'd be willing to clean it yourself in exchange for $X off your rent if that would make his life easier, but you'd be just as happy if he wants someone else to clean it.

Good (polite) communication is key.
posted by JMOZ at 8:44 PM on July 31, 2006


Get a price on a cleaning service and painting. Call the landlord, explain that you've already done a lot of cleaning, and that it would be fair for landlord to pay for further cleaning and a coat of paint. Don't express anger, just politely request a fair resolution. Make it easy for the landlord to give you wat you want, and you have a good chance of getting at least part of it.
posted by theora55 at 8:45 PM on July 31, 2006


This happened to us many years ago... and I really don't think there's anything you can do. The landlord's only bound responsibility is to make sure the A/C, water, locks, and so forth work and that there's no health issues.

But get pictures before you start moving stuff in! This might come in handy if you have trouble later on. I have this funny feeling you won't be getting your security deposit back for some ridiculous reason, no matter how nice he seems... so all the better.

I'm not familiar with NC renters laws so YMMV.
posted by rolypolyman at 8:51 PM on July 31, 2006


Also examine the fine print of your lease agreement to see if there's anything about what condition the place is supposed to be in. If nothing, I think my point is valid.
posted by rolypolyman at 8:52 PM on July 31, 2006


Be sure to take pictures of the damage, date them, and if at all possible get the property manager to sign the pictures. Keep this for when you go to move out so they don't try to claim that you did the damage.
posted by raedyn at 9:05 PM on July 31, 2006


Never expect a landlord or property manager to do anything they haven't signed a written contract saying they'd do. Any amount of money they spend on you is money directly out of their pocket, so the game is to get you to tolerate as bad of conditions as possible. Your only bargaining chip is that that it might take a couple months to re-rent the place if you leave. If the rental market is hot, you might not have much to bargain with at all.

Sorry to sound so pessimistic, but landlords never get better. They'll promise you the world, but you pretty much have to accept the house in the condition it's in once you move in.

Don't fool yourself. You'll be miserable for as long as you're there.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 9:17 PM on July 31, 2006


I'll go ahead and say it now: DOCUMENT EVERYTHING! Carefully. Keep receipts. Cover your ass above all else.

And then let the landlord know that you really did have to go through some effort to clean everything up.
posted by drstein at 9:56 PM on July 31, 2006


It sounds like the landlord is oversharing his business and personal affairs. Documentation is a very good idea. Beyond that, take theora55's advice. That will give you the best chance of keeping your options open as future prospective buyers. Your only firm footing now is as tenants. So draw attention to the agreement that you made with your landlord, and be mindful that in most cases the law views the contract as the agreement between the parties, not the ink on the paper.
posted by ads at 10:01 PM on July 31, 2006


Get the photos (and get him some copies) and say that some work needs to be done. If he sounds hesitant to do it, you may have to do it yourself but ask if you get receipts for rug cleaner rental, paint, spackle, etc, if you can either take it off the rent or have him reimburse you. If this is the best you can get, at least look at the bright side - you get to choose the colors of the paint not necessarily the white that landlords usually do.

Oh yeah, and take photos after it is clean too, so that you can document the work that you did in case you need it later.

Wife of 445supermag
posted by 445supermag at 10:08 PM on July 31, 2006


Dr. Stein and 445 supermag got it right. Send the documentation off to the landlord with a letter further explaining the situation and what you want.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:34 PM on July 31, 2006


Pictures, pictures, pictures.
posted by sophist at 2:22 AM on August 1, 2006


If it's that dirty, it's probably been awhile since it was exterminated, too. Get the place on a pest control program as soon as possible, even if it is only self-applied internal roach powder and exterior foundation band treatment with a broad spectrum lawn product such as Triazicide granules.
posted by paulsc at 4:42 AM on August 1, 2006


If your landlord paid the property manager a bunch of money to clean the place and it wasn't clean, then he may be more upset with her, not with you. It sounds like he made a good-faith effort to get the place livable.

Just like everyone else said - be polite, take pictures, save reciepts.
posted by christinetheslp at 7:36 AM on August 1, 2006


Don't become so wedded to the idea of eventually buying THIS house that you purposely overlook things or ignore red flags. While that could be a good deal, it also might not. If the house was left that dirty, it is a good bet that it also has not been maintained well at all.

Even in this crazy market, a well maintained but plain house, or one that has been decorated strangely, is a better bet than a house that hasn't been maintained. That lack of maintainance always costs the new owner more money at some point.
posted by jeanmari at 7:47 AM on August 1, 2006


Read your lease prior to using any outside contractors. The lease my company uses prohibits the use of outside contractors.
Make sure that even if you feel you should get a discount on the rent that you don't take it until something is put in writing by the landlord. The landlord can still hold you liable for the full amount of rent, even if you paid for repairs and cleaning for the apartment that should have been done previously. Definitely take pictures and document everything. In these types of cases, if it goes to court the judge will generally side toward the one that has the most back up information.
If the house is so dirty that it might have mold issues, you might have a way out of the lease if you decide that you have no desire to live there or purchase later.
posted by Elaisa at 11:42 AM on August 1, 2006


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