Renting in New Zealand - Pets urine on carpet. Smells. Pet hair
September 12, 2009 8:13 AM   Subscribe

I'm currently renting a flat unit in New Zealand which I will be moving out next month. My current rental agreement states that I do not need to have the carpet professionally cleaned before I move out. I have two cats in the house and the question was raised with the property agent before I moved in. They have agreed to let me have the pets in the house and on the rental agreement, it also states that they are okay with it.

The property agent did an inspection of the house recently and they have asked for me to have the carpet clean by a professional carpet cleaner because they can smell cat urine. This was not raised previously in the previous few inspections. I suspect this could be due to the fact that I'm moving out for good. I do know that my cats have made a few accidents on the carpet which I have already tried my best in cleaning up the area. The smell does remain but it's not strong. the carpet is discoloured slightly as well. My questions are: Is it reasonable for the property agent to request for the carpet to be professionally cleaned? If I disagree, am I in any way in breach of the tenancy agreement? I am thinking that since the property agent allows us to keep pets in the house, wouldn't the cat 'accidents' be the normal wears and tears of having a property rented out?
posted by anonymous to Pets & Animals (28 answers total)
The smell does remain but it's not strong. the carpet is discoloured slightly as well.

If you don't do it, they will take it out of your security deposit. Start shopping around for an estimate.

And really, your cats pissed on their carpet. Cat piss is nasty. Man up and clean up after yourself like a civilized human being.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:15 AM on September 12, 2009 [5 favorites]

Please try to look at this situation through the eyes of a future tenant. Would you want to move into a place that smelled like cat urine and had a discolored carpet? I don't think so. I think it is reasonable to request that the carpet be professionally cleaned. It is also a decent thing you should do.
posted by snugglebunny at 8:17 AM on September 12, 2009

"I am thinking that since the property agent allows us to keep pets in the house, wouldn't the cat 'accidents' be the normal wears and tears of having a property rented out?"

posted by snowjoe at 8:23 AM on September 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Pet accidents are not normal wear and tear, no.
posted by jessamyn at 8:25 AM on September 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would consider myself very lucky if all I had to do in this situation was get the carpet cleaned.
posted by Ike_Arumba at 8:37 AM on September 12, 2009

I'm surprised they're not making you pay for replacing the carpet.
That smell ALWAYS comes back even after professional cleaning.
posted by j at 8:46 AM on September 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Agree with everyone. You not having to have the carpet cleaned was by common sense contingent on the carpet being clean enough for the next tenant. They would only mention it on move-out because it is your own business if you want to live in a smelly apartment, but they have to rent it out to someone and it needs to be pristine. This is standard practice for renting pretty much everywhere.
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:04 AM on September 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

By the way I had a large bachelor apartment cleaned for about $80; it took less than an hour, and I scheduled it with only two days notice. It's not really that much of a hardship and it's not at all difficult to do.
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:07 AM on September 12, 2009

Nthing to go ahead and clean the carpet. You're probably used to the smell--it might reek to others. Just do it or it'll come out of your deposit.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:13 AM on September 12, 2009

I think you're lucky that they're not asking you to replace the carpet - if there's a cat urine odour they would be well within their rights to do so. That is not normal wear and tear.

(Cat-lover and renter here BTW, so not hating on your cats.)
posted by different at 9:50 AM on September 12, 2009

Seriously? Clean up after your cats and have the carpet professionally cleaned - it's disgusting and not normal wear and tear. (And I'm a cat-owner.)
posted by meerkatty at 9:57 AM on September 12, 2009

I am allergic to cats. If I moved into a place that had previously had cats I would be very annoyed/reactive if the carpets had not been cleaned. Get them cleaned. It's standard practice for any rented property with carpets.
posted by wingless_angel at 10:13 AM on September 12, 2009

Urine and feces stains are not normal wear and tear, whether human or animal (renter with two cats speaking).
posted by agent99 at 10:51 AM on September 12, 2009

Quick, pay for the carpets to be professionally cleaned and move the heck out ASAP before the landlord figures out that professional cleaning will not remove the scent of cat urine out of carpeting.

I have four cats. I just installed hardwood in my hallway to replace a peed-upon carpet that every possible cleaning solution failed to destink-a-fy.
posted by jamaro at 11:54 AM on September 12, 2009

jamaro nails it - do it quick and gtfo. Or, try to weasel (not the best word, but its the truth) an agreement with the landlord that a professional cleaning is *all* you need to do, because as everyone else has noted - the cleaning will not take care of the smell long term.
posted by ish__ at 1:26 PM on September 12, 2009

If you want some official advice, phone the Department of Building and Housing on 0800 83 62 62 (0800 TENANCY). BTW, this phone number is on the Residential Tenancy Agreement that you and your Agency/Landlord have signed.
posted by Kiwi at 2:32 PM on September 12, 2009

I think the manager is well within their rights. I've had multiple cats for fifteen years and they've never urinated on the carpet or left a noticeable smell anywhere. If you don't do it they'll just take money from the bond to do it themselves, except that they may charge you to recarpet the whole room instead of just pay for a cleaning. The Tenancy Agency Kiwi linked will definitely tell you either way (I've rung them before and they were very helpful) but really, there's no way those kind of stains are a normal part of having pets.

When you get the carpet cleaned make sure it's going to actually clean the full thickness of the carpet. In our last place the company we got in did some weird kind of dry surface clean that didn't really do anything and we ended up being charged to recarpet one small room anyway (there was a stain from a plant). The landlord wanted to charge us for cleaning everything again since the clean was in our lease and it was so crappy, but we had a receipt and the cleaners were professionals so they couldn't. I have had good results in the past from using a rug doctor to remove food and beer stains (including some smells), but most landlords don't accept that as being professionally cleaned.
posted by shelleycat at 2:40 PM on September 12, 2009

Please try to look at this situation through the eyes of a future tenant.

This. How you behave now affects how the landlord will perceive and treat future tenants (particulary pet owners, I'll note). Be mature, responsible, and do the Right Thing.
posted by Tuesday After Lunch at 3:34 PM on September 12, 2009

This is why landlords are wary of renting to people with pets.

It's usual for carpets to be cleaned when a tenant vacates a property in Australia unless the lease has been very short-term (ie <>
If you don't do this, expect to have a hard time renting with pets in the future. Pet pee is not normal wear and tear. The majority of pet owners have animals which do not pee or shit inside and take full responsibility for any additional costs which come with pet ownership - the idea that someone else should bear the financial responsibility for your pets' accidents is one I find both selfish and immature. You, and you alone are responsible for any damage they have caused - you shouldn't even need to be asked to clean the carpets, let alone be looking for ways you can get out of doing so.
posted by Lolie at 4:42 PM on September 12, 2009

Not a lawyer, but renting in NZ. I had a quick trawl through Lexis Nexis, and the closest thing I could find to a definition of wear and tear is "such deterioration as the premises may suffer as a result of the natural operation of the elements and the passage of time." Cat pee can soak through the carpet and damage the linings underneath (I think it's the ammonia), and if it's stained that's pretty clearly outside the bounds of normal wear and tear.

Definitely call the Tenancy hotline suggested above - you'll get a quick and correct answer.
posted by Paragon at 4:49 PM on September 12, 2009

You can, of course, refuse. However, as you ought to be aware, if the landlord isn't happy with the state of the premises, s/he can lodge a claim with the tenancy tribunal to have your bond docked the cost of cleaning. That's the way it works under tenancy law in NZ.

The manager is giving you the chance to make reasonable arrangements yourself; your landlord may take more expensive options, and if the landlord can make a reasonable case they were needed you'll be shit outta luck on your bond.

Also bear in mind property managers and landlords often operate formal or informal tenant blacklists. If you leave the place a mess, especially if it has to go to the tribunal, it may well count against you in future rentals.
posted by rodgerd at 6:15 PM on September 12, 2009

Honestly, I think you have some nerve. This place changed its rules to allow you to have cats in the apartment, your cats pee on the carpet, and you don't want to pay for cleaning?

You should pay to replace the carpet your pets ruined! "Normal wear and tear" is the kind of damage that would naturally occur with use. There is no way includes pee on the floor.

Your question has me shaking my head in disbelief. I have to wonder what's happened to people when they don't obviously know they should fix things they break.
posted by xammerboy at 7:23 PM on September 12, 2009

This question makes me really mad. It's people like you that make it hard for responsible pet owners to find a place to live. I have three dogs, and I know accidents happen. I also know I'm responsible for them.

Your cats are supposed to be housetrained. If YOU peed on the rug, wouldn't you think you should have it cleaned? Or is that just wear and tear for letting a human into the apartment?

It's not normal wear and tear. Pay up.
posted by walla at 7:27 PM on September 12, 2009

Also. The last five places I've rented (some direct from the landlord, some via real estate agent) specifically asked if I'd had money taken from my bond in the last two or three houses and if so, why. Several of them also asked for my last landlord's details and rang them for a reference. My current landlord specifically asked my previous one about the cats and any damage they'd done when they were deciding whether or not to rent to us. I could have refused to give that information but they would have just refused to consider me as a tenant.

As an example of how this can follow you around, the only reason I was allowed to rent the house after the potted plant situation I mentioned above was because it didn't have any carpet, and two houses later I still have something built into my current lease about having the plants up off the floor.

So you're probably better off dealing with this yourself now than letting it go to the bond situation just because it will make it easier for you when renting in the future. Good references are important for renting particularly when you have pets. Don't limit your options any more than you need to. Of course if you're moving because you bought a house it won't matter, do whatever's cheapest.
posted by shelleycat at 8:21 PM on September 12, 2009

Another point is that if you don't deal with this issue before vacating your property, you run the risk of your agent successfully arguing to the tenancy tribunal that the carpets will need replacing, not just cleaning - and if I was a tribunal member dealing with a tenant taking the "they let me have the cats, so I shouldn't have to pay" line of argument, I'd happily grant the agent's request for the full cost of replacing the damaged carpet. You might want to check whether tenancy tribunal rulings are publicly accessible in NZ - this could haunt you for a long time if they are.
posted by Lolie at 10:48 PM on September 12, 2009

While I appreciate much of what has been said, I'm rather contrary. You see, in the sort of place you describe, I would expect them to clean the carpets at every change in tenant. There prior statements, to me, meant they picked up that cost. This even makes the most sense to me.

So, they see your carpet especially needs it, and suddenly, you have to pay for it. The only thing you can do, is do the cleaning. But do consider, this all suggests they wouldn't have cleaned, otherwise, so that place really isn't as good as you suggest you're paying for.

Short version: cat pee stinks, so does your landlord. Clean the carpet. Cheap lesson.
posted by Goofyy at 11:16 AM on September 14, 2009

Oh, I should say, my thoughts are based on 20-year-old American experience. Since then, I've mainly owned, or lived abroad, in places where it's all perfectly clear: everything must be correct. And I make sure it is, because I hire people to do that.
posted by Goofyy at 11:24 AM on September 14, 2009

You see, in the sort of place you describe, I would expect them to clean the carpets at every change in tenant.

Based on my 15 years experience renting houses in New Zealand, like the OP, I respectfully disagree. Here it's very common for a lease to say that the carpet must be professionally cleaned by the tenant when leaving and even when it doesn't cleaning any exceptional stains such as food or cat pee is the responsibility of the tenant. Often the land lord does no cleaning before the next person moves in (although my current, awesome landlord is an exception), leaving the place reasonably clean and tidy and free from rubbish is an expectation of the tenant under the Residential Tenancies Act. Cat pee soaked carpet isn't reasonably clean or normal wear and tear.
posted by shelleycat at 3:12 PM on September 14, 2009

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