Finding a place to rent after leaving behind a dirty apartment
June 20, 2016 12:08 AM   Subscribe

I recently graduated from college, and will be finding a place to rent within the next month or two, likely in either the SF Bay Area or NYC (so the market will be rather competitive). While in college, due to being five young guys who were apathetic about cleaning, we didn't leave our apartment in the best condition, and incurred significant cleaning fees (~$450), much more than our landlord usually charged. (Not that we literally destroyed anything, though.) How badly would this affect our rental applications in the near future, and what should I say if asked?

A few more details:
- Our rent payment history was mostly fine; one or two months' checks were a couple days late in the three years we stayed there.
- There weren't any other complaints (e.g. noise) that we were informed of.
- I'll be looking to live alone in a studio (or a relatively cheap 1br), so there won't be as much space to take care of, compared to the 3br/2ba we lived in. I'd like to think I'll be better at taking care of a smaller place with only myself to blame.

I'm still pretty new to the apartment-hunting process, and prone to worrying, so maybe I'm just overthinking how much a potential landlord is going to care.
posted by sqrtofpi to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Write that prior landlord an adult letter and make a heart felt apology for your young idiot ways and ask for a reply that will cover you for this immediate future rental situation and don't screw it up again. Seems like your portion would have been under $100.00 for the prior damages, not a lot of money in the real world, jus' sayin'. Good luck.
posted by Freedomboy at 1:09 AM on June 20, 2016

Your landlord probably doesn't care very much in the grand scheme of things. Charging for cleaning is just part of doing business, especially in a college area. Very often they make a profit on it.

In today's sue happy world, it's unlikely that they'd disclose anything less significant than failing to pay rent or doing actual damages that the deposit didn't cover. As long as the cleaning fee was settled up promptly, I wouldn't lose sleep over it.
posted by Candleman at 2:36 AM on June 20, 2016 [3 favorites]

Things may have changed in the Bay Area since I was a renter - but in my experience, prospective landlords wanted to know that I had a) enough of a steady income to pay the rent, and b) decent - not pristine, just decent - credit. I was never subjected to the kind of thorough background and reference check that prospective employers often do.

Unless you failed to pay your rent or really trashed the place in a way that required major repairs (not just extra cleaning), you should be OK. Income and credit are more important. You don't have to go writing a groveling letter of apology and beg for a good reference. Least said, soonest mended.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 5:04 AM on June 20, 2016 [4 favorites]

Agreed with others that you probably won't be questioned about it, your previous landlord probably doesn't think you you as bad tenants. But if you are asked, blame the roommates (not that it was necessarily their fault, but since you're not living with them now and the new landlord doesn't know their names, it's not like it's slander). "That was really a lesson learned - for one, about how to keep an apartment in good enough shape that it doesn't need a cleaning crew when we leave, and for another, about how important it is to avoid bad roommates."
posted by aimedwander at 5:46 AM on June 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

Yeah, you can blame the roommates if you have to. I once had a new prospective landlord ask me about a patch of wallpaper that someone had put up in my last apartment--it had actually been there before I moved in, and because there was no indication it wasn't supposed to be there, hadn't been noted on the initial walk-through. (I wasn't there for that anyway since I took over someone else's lease a year or two later.) First I'd heard of it, but it was annoying enough apparently for the previous landlord to bring it up. I just shrugged and said I hadn't done it and that was the end of it.
posted by tiger tiger at 8:03 AM on June 20, 2016

Meh, many landlords won't care, but a decent number of them in NYC do ask for a prior landlord reference. You can either avoid them or just be prepared to make your case for bad roommates/increased maturity if the prior landlord says anything about it. They may not bother, if it was just cleaning and you paid the charge promptly.
posted by praemunire at 8:36 AM on June 20, 2016

I've lived in two places in SF. Current apartment is owned by an individual (not a large corporation) and he didn't ask for references. Last apartment was owned by a big apartment company. We said we were currently living with family (true) and they didn't ask for references.
posted by radioamy at 9:31 AM on June 20, 2016

My cats pissed all over the carpet in an SF apartment of mine. It all had to be taken out—they were going to refinish the wood underneath anyway—but our deposit covered the damage. It's exactly what the deposit is for & such fees are for. He might mention that it happened, but he'll also mention that you dealt with it promptly.
posted by listen, lady at 7:24 PM on June 20, 2016

Yeah, as long as the cleaning fee was actually paid, I doubt it's going to come up at all. Now, if you had claimed the place wasn't dirty, they were trying to rip you off, you weren't going to pay that ... that might be an issue.
posted by timepiece at 9:02 AM on June 21, 2016

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