I'm sorry my dog broke your apartment
February 15, 2017 12:08 PM   Subscribe

My dog has caused some considerable damages in my apartment, and I'm moving soon. How do I address this with my landlord?

I live in a rental apartment that is a giant, turn-of-the-century house that was split into two separate units. The ad for the apartment noted that it has several "delicate and irreplaceable" features that the tenant needed to be respectful of. The landlord allowed pets with a $250/pet deposit, which I paid for my dog and two cats - a total of $750.

I moved from several hundred miles away, and my stuff didn't arrive until I had lived in the place for a few days. My dog is the destructive type, so I got a travel crate to put her in for the inevitable errands that I would have to run before her regular crate arrived. She chewed through it on the first day.

So for the first few days that I lived in the apartment, I had to lock her up in different rooms of the house to try to keep her from damaging the entire place. Unsurprisingly, there are now three doors in the apartment that have significant scratches. On one door it's not super noticeable, on the second the scratches are definitely noticeable and deep. The third door is actually a set of French doors that may be original to the home, and the scratches are extremely deep and the dog even chewed at some extra wood that frames the door.

I'm buying my first home and ending my lease early. The landlord and I have only texted a handful of times in the year-plus that I've lived here, so I don't have much of a relationship with him. He has already begun to list the place. I know that the pet deposits would cover the cost of a new door, but I'm really concerned that he's going to go at me for this as an "irreplaceable" feature. How do I broach this with him?
posted by anotheraccount to Home & Garden (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is what your deposit is for. If he didn't set the deposit at an amount that wouldn't adequately cover damages, that's on him. Take a look over your lease and see if it has any language regarding extra charges about these "irreplaceable" features.

Also if it was that big of a deal, I wouldn't have allowed pets at all, or made the deposit high enough as to only allow tenants truly okay paying out the nose to have their animals there.

Edit: And I, personally, wouldn't worry about mentioning it at all. Again, inspecting it before showing it is on him.
posted by sixfootaxolotl at 12:13 PM on February 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

Yeah, you shouldn't feel bad for normal damage that occurs when you live somewhere. That includes destructive dogs. Life happens.

You should clean and fix to your ability, and your deposit should cover anything else. If it doesn't, that's (probably, of course depends on your jurisdiction + lease) not your problem.
posted by so fucking future at 12:26 PM on February 15, 2017

I'm not sure that your landlord would have to replace the doors. Even deep scratches in wood aren't hard to repair using wood filler. If they're painted, some kind of patching plus paint makes this kind of thing pretty much not noticeable. I tend to fix minor damage like this myself before I move out of older apartments, but whether that's OK to do in this situation depends on your landlord, your lease terms, and your comfort with doing DIY repairs.
posted by quiet coyote at 12:29 PM on February 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

Agreed that damage beyond the amount of your deposit, however irreplaceable, is on your landlord, considering that they allow pets. Don't sweat whatever emotional deposit they attempted to extract.

I would not, however, try to fix anything, given what seems to be their emotional attachment to parts of the house. In their shoes I would much rather have damage that I can evaluate and fix as needed than DIY-repaired damage, however skilled the DIYer.
posted by supercres at 12:43 PM on February 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

I would be very upset if I were your landlord and would want you to offer to pay for the cost of fixing what your dog ruined. I have a dog, I love my dog, and when I'm not home she's either with me or at daycare. You knew your dog was destructive, knew your house had 'irreplaceable' features, and you weren't adequately prepared to deal with it.
posted by Marinara at 1:08 PM on February 15, 2017 [69 favorites]

Take some personal responsibility for what you let your dog do, destroying doors is way above normal wear. Just be honest with the landlord and let him know what to expect, and maybe that will go towards not being taken to small claims court or something like that.
posted by cakebatter at 1:17 PM on February 15, 2017 [34 favorites]

Best answer: I'm a dog lover and owner of a large dog myself, but I'm going to go against the grain here a bit.

I think the pet deposits are for normal damage. I consider normal pet-related damage to include things like: dander-y carpets that need to be professionally cleaned, very minor scratches to the floor and molding, and things of that ilk. I also consider slightly more severe damage to be "normal" when it is truly outside of your control (i.e, the result of a dog getting sick).

I do not consider what you're talking about to be normal pet-related damage. At all. Honestly, I'm not trying to scold you here, but you should have gotten an appropriate crate when your dog chewed her way out of the travel crate. You could have donated the extra crate to a local shelter when you were done with it.

In your shoes, I would explain to your landlord what happened and apologize profusely. Then say, that while you think the repairs can be made for $750 or less, you're also open to talking about other ways to remedy the situation.

It's already hard to rent with a pet in some locales, and it's because of things like this. Please don't sour your landlord to the idea of renting to pet owners in the future.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 1:17 PM on February 15, 2017 [91 favorites]

I have fixed such damage with wood putty and matching stain. If the landlords noticed, they never said anything. Just match the stain as carefully as you can and chances are he won't even notice.

It's worth a shot. It's not like wood putty is going to make the damage any worse, after all. If the landlord notices and hates it, he can yank your deposit, remove your DIY repairs and get it fixed however he chooses.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 1:38 PM on February 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hire a true professional that deals with homes of this age and get them to patch the scratches. They should be able to make this repair undetectable.


Reassess after repair if you need to disclose at all. Wear and tear is a legal term and your landlord has zero right to expect irreplaceable features will stay that way in a rental situation. If the repairs are done with skill, this is a mute point. The most he could charge you for concerning scratches, no matter how deep, is for repair only. Save him the hassle and make it your business to repair the doors professionally. Save the receipt, just in case.
posted by jbenben at 1:46 PM on February 15, 2017 [14 favorites]

Yeah, I have to admit, I definitely disagree with the first couple of posters. You applied for an apartment advertised as having "delicate and irreplacable" features and then proceeded to lock a "destructive-type" dog alone in rooms upon first getting into the apartment. That is a lapse in judgment that is severe enough that your concern that your landlord is going to go after you is entirely a justified concern.

Your mistake was in even applying for an apartment marketed as "irreplaceable" when you knew you had a destructive dog.

My serious, non-flippant advice is to (a) reread your lease from top to bottom to see if there is language covering damage to the "irreplacable features", and (b) start looking for a lawyer, because I really would hate to imagine what your landlord is going to charge for something they advertised as "irreplacable." You now need to minimize the financial damage you're going to get hit with.

Not comforting to hear, I am sure. But unfortunately, this is not a comforting situation for you, and simply trying to comfort you would be a massive disservice.
posted by WCityMike at 2:28 PM on February 15, 2017 [10 favorites]

In fact, to be honest, I'd ask the mods to delete this question. You don't want it coming up in discovery.
posted by WCityMike at 2:31 PM on February 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

$750 is your pet deposit, but what's your full security deposit? The landlord can definitely withhold for your standard security deposit for this -- the pet deposit is just extra on top for carpet cleaning, basically.

I would only very cautiously attempt repairs without the landlord's permission.
posted by amaire at 2:33 PM on February 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, all. Not to threadsit, but to answer some questions: I looked back at my lease and my security deposit was actually $1,000 plus $500 for a pet deposit, for a total of $1,500. There is nothing in the lease about the "irreplaceable" features - it's a standard boilerplate lease.
posted by anotheraccount at 2:52 PM on February 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

I would see if you can get an estimate to get the doors fixed and have a professional do it. Landlords are notorious for charging crazy amounts for repairs to see if they can get away with it, often charging replacement costs when they are not entitled to that. If you get your own person to do it, at least you know what it actually cost and you pay only that amount. This can prevent the need to take him to court if he decides he needs to replace all the doors so that they match or something like that.

In most states the landlord is free to sue you for repair costs above the security deposit + pet deposit, so you may want to get that done ASAP and definitely before you move out. If he's already showing the unit he probably already knows about it, and might get annoyed if you hire someone to fix it, but it would be hard to get the judge's sympathy in a court case to get more money if he's whining about you having a professional do the work unless the pro does a terrible job.
posted by possibilityleft at 3:00 PM on February 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Yeah, its really a shame, things like this are what makes it SO hard to find a rental place that will allow pets. Once, long ago, it looked like I was going to have to be homeless because I could not find a place I could afford that would allow my dog, and she was my family, I could no more give her up than give up a child. Thats what I'm remembering, when I beg you to do the right thing and speak with your landlord about this situation. He or she may be happy to work with you and will certainly appreciate your honesty and integrity. Dont be the asshole who ruins it for everyone else. Please, just don't.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 3:25 PM on February 15, 2017 [13 favorites]

In most areas, your landlord can go after you for additional money if the cost of necessary repairs exceeds the amount of the deposit. The deposit is there so that they don't have to take you to court and then collect if there are minor damages (and if you refuse to pay). That's why some landlords allow a lower deposit for people with good credit (or require a higher deposit for people with poor credit).

Check your lease and your local landlord/tenant laws. Think about what you'll do/say if your landlord comes to you and says that there was $2000 worth of damage to the apartment so he's keeping the deposit and you owe him $500.
posted by insectosaurus at 3:55 PM on February 15, 2017 [5 favorites]

Based on your Best Answer allotments I think you're already convinced of the best path forward.

Just wanted to provide another counterpoint to the posters who suggested that anything above and beyond your deposit is somehow the landlord's problem. That is almost certainly not the case. This is why renters insurance brings peace of mind to a lot of people.

You can purchase hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars of liability insurance for a couple hundred bucks a year in most cases. Any chance you already have a Renters policy?
posted by reeddavid at 4:23 PM on February 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

Agreeing with insectosaurus. Your deposit is just that: A deposit against potential damages. It sounds very likely that the actual cost to replace and/or repair the damage caused by your dog will significantly exceed your deposit. Your landlord will most likely pursue this.

You might want to start by hunting up some replacements for those French doors. And contracting your own repair work orders. It will help you reduce the cost of repairs.
posted by lester at 6:37 PM on February 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

If it's a lot of damage you may be able to claim it on your renters insurance policy.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:57 PM on February 15, 2017

Take pics and document the damage and any repair.

Folks are wrong that your landlord can charge you for replacement of scratched doors. If the doors are largely functional as doors, then the law is clear they may only charge for repairs, this is why pics or video is so important.

Source: Experience in residential rental owner/management. If the door is repairable (no holes through the doors, they can be adjusted to hang properly and close fully) your landlord can not charge for replacement if you wanted to dispute any charges in small claims court. Make sure you document and double check the regs in your jurisdiction, but this is pretty universal in most jurisdictions.

PS - It is good and responsible you want to do the right thing and you are now. I agree you were lax about your dog's tendencies, however... your landlord could and should have removed and replaced any features he did not want irreparably damaged, storing the one-of-a-kind vintage feature for the future.

Source: Experience with old and architecturally significant buildings, their restoration and preservation.
posted by jbenben at 10:17 PM on February 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Well, I'm a landlord, and while this might tick me off, it seems unlikely that the repair would cost more than $1500 unless they need to buy replacement doors and door frames from some historical building supply store or make a lot of stuff by hand. Door sizes can be a bit screwy, so if they needed to replace one, then things would get more costly. But hopefully the wood filler mentioned above would suffice. It would be classy of you to point out the damage and offer to pay more if needed; that would build goodwill with me.
posted by slidell at 10:17 PM on February 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

How ever you handle this, please be up front with your landlord and make it known that this was a problem cause by YOUR handling of YOUR known difficult dog.

It's the shits when one renter screws it for other dog owners who then are locked out of renting an appropriate place for keeping their buddy.

When we were overseas, we rented our house with a proviso that there would be no more than two indoor pets. We didn't anticipate the shitty (literally) chicken wire kennel and our ruined outbuilding caused by 14 extremely large mixed breed dogs hated by our neighbors for their barking and escaping to terrorize their pets. Our rental manager was useless, but that's another story. It took burning the outbuilding and bringing in a truckload of sand to cover the stench. (We have horses; we're not fainting delicate folk when it comes to animal waste. This was beyond shoveling.) The damage indoors was over $3,000.

Would I rent to another pet owner...???
posted by BlueHorse at 11:45 AM on February 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

Please consider all the people who find it hard enough to rent with a pet, and all the pets surrendered at shelters because their owners couldn't find a landlord who would allow a pet.

You sound like a caring and thoughtful person. If I were you, I'd come clean and offer to pay for repairs.
posted by daybeforetheday at 11:48 PM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Before you talk to your landlord, it would behoove you to get at least two quotes from contractors for fixing the damage. Landlords are notorious at inflating repair costs even unintentionally - when you're on the hook for fixing it, there's no need for them to seek out the reasonably priced guy. If you come in with quotes you'll be much better prepared to talk about this.
posted by corb at 7:12 AM on September 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

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