Lease from hell??? Move out cleaning and replacement charges
August 30, 2017 7:33 PM   Subscribe

We have lived in our apartment for 15 years. It has recently been sold to a new leasing company, and one page of the new lease we are supposed to sign is a lengthy list of move out cleaning and repair charges. It says that "the following charges will be assessed regardless of how long the resident occupies the apartment."

Over the course of 15 years, this place has suffered quite a bit of wear and tear. I don't see how they can charge us the full cost of replacing, say, a 15+ year old carpet? Or $400 for painting walls that have not been painted since we moved in? Or $315 for resurfacing a bathtub that is a bit scratched and stained from 15 years of use? Or "actual cost" for replacing two outdated bathroom vanities that show some surface wear (such as a small burn mark that was there when we moved in, but we can't prove it)?

And they apparently require us to have the place "professionally cleaned" when we move out. How much does that even cost? Looking at this list of charges, if they really make no allowances for 15 years of wear and tear, it looks like we would be on the hook for potentially thousands of dollars.

Here is a link to the document they want us to sign. Does this look remotely normal? If we sign it, are we going to be totally fucked at move-out time?

And that brings me to another question. Our lease expired during the time the property was being sold from one leasing company to another. After the new company took over, I requested a new lease three times since July 15, they kept saying they would get it ready and send it electronically but never did. Finally yesterday I got a voicemail from them asking did we want to sign a new lease, or did we want to go month-to-month (at a much higher rate of rent?) I called and told them to send it, which they finally did yesterday afternoon. And said we need to sign it by the end of August (tomorrow) if we don't want to pay the higher rate for September.

We are considering not signing the lease if they won't waive this portion, giving our two months' notice and moving out the end of October. If we don't sign the lease agreeing to these charges, are they able to enforce them when we move in October?
posted by Serene Empress Dork to Law & Government (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What are the laws in your state?
posted by jbenben at 7:36 PM on August 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

For the carpet, look up "carpet rental law [your state]". In California, for example, carpets only have a 10 year life. After that, the cost of replacement is 100% up to the landlord.
posted by radioamy at 7:36 PM on August 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Where are you located? Everywhere I've lived, much of that stuff would be straight-up illegal. I mean I'm no expert on tenant law (though I'm sure the cavalry will be here any minute) but I'm pretty sure in most US jurisdictions, normal wear & tear costs are the landlord's responsibility and can't come out of your deposit, let alone be mandatory extra charges. It would really help to know where you live.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:38 PM on August 30, 2017

Beyond what the laws in your jurisdiction say (most specifically say owners can not charge for wear and tear) you could cross out everything you do not agree with, sign the lease, pay the rent, request a walk-through with one of their agents and provide a list of repairs you require. Maybe your state's law requires new paint every X years, carpet evey Y number of years - if you are overdue for maintenance, note this in the letter.
posted by jbenben at 7:39 PM on August 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

We are in Illinois.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 7:39 PM on August 30, 2017

For what it's worth, my landlord put all sorts of similar things in my lease that turned out to be totally not legal. Is there a tenant advocacy group in your area? If so, give them a call and see what they have to say about it.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:40 PM on August 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

These people saved my bacon when I lived in Chicago and my landlord didn't think he needed to make repairs after the ceiling of one of our bedrooms caved in. Looks like they mostly deal with Chicago and Evanston, but they may be able to refer you if you live elsewhere in the area.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:44 PM on August 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have no idea what the laws of your jurisdiction are, but in general the terms of a lease are frequently overridden by the law of the state or locality you are in. So some of these terms in the new lease may not be enforceable. Your landlord may even know that the terms are not enforcible, but if the tenant doesn't object and pays the fee, that's generally the end of it. So you may be in for quite a hassle, I would definitely contact whatever tenants rights organizations exist around you, or legal aid, which you may be eligible for. Just off the top my head, the short term notice they're giving you for putting into effect a higher rent would be unenforceable in many jurisdictions.
posted by skewed at 7:46 PM on August 30, 2017 [7 favorites]

I am not a lawyer, I've just been to housing court in a different state before (and won, but it was a HUUUUGE hassle!)

It sounds as if you are currently in a month-to-month lease, since your old lease ended (on July 15th?). As such, whatever the old lease's notice period was should apply to the effective month-to-month lease. You're talking about a 60 day notice period in your question. Unless you've received a written notice of intent to terminate the lease 30 or 60 days ago, they might be full of shit on the pay-higher-rent-in-September-two-days-from-now strong-arming the management company is attempting. Look into whether Illinois has any restrictions on when, how much, and with what notice rent can be raised.

The bottom portion of that form seems like a totally unclear list of what the cleaning costs would be if the apartment isn't cleaned, and what the replacement costs are if you have damaged or lost things that came with the unit. I think that's where tub reglazing - $315, and ice cube trays (2) - $2 comes in. I.e. advance notice that if you destroy the bi-fold doors, you'll be out $90 per door of your security deposit. AFAIK landlords can require that carpets be shampooed, and that the place be clean. In my experience, professionally cleaned = actually deep cleaned. Like, de-grease the oven and the range hood, clean the fridge, wipe down the cabinets, etc. As opposed to "broom clean" which is basically sweep the floors, turn out the lights, and lock the door before you go.

If you want to stay, which it sounds like you do, I would just sign the REST of the lease, initialing on each page, and draw a big X across the page with the damage cost list, write "cannot/will not sign before unit walk-though conducted," and return it to the leasing agent. At the very least, that will put the ball in their court to either 1. accept the new lease w/o even asking about unsigned page, 2. schedule a walk-through, or 3. give written notice of termination of tenancy, which would still be subject to the 30- or 60-day window, giving you plenty of time to move if this is really a deal-breaker.
posted by foodmapper at 8:22 PM on August 30, 2017 [5 favorites]

IANAL You are currently bound by the existing lease. Or not, since it has expired. Do you have a copy of the old lease? You are not bound by the new lease unless you sign it, and even then, you can't be bound to illegal lease provisions. They dawdled about sending the new lease. A genuine lawyer or specialist in landlord-tenant law in your town and state can help you determine if and when a new rental amount takes effect. In many places, notification of rent increase requires 1 month written notice. That list looks like it gives them free rein to charge you a ton. I've seen people have cleaning charges on spotless rentals. Metropolitan Tenants Organization may help.
posted by theora55 at 8:54 PM on August 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Agreed 1000% it is likely they can not raise your rent without proper legal notice, 60 Days in most jurisdictions. Similarly, you may be legally month-to-month and might not need a lease. They would still need to serve you proper notice to raise your rent, month-to-month or not.
posted by jbenben at 8:55 PM on August 30, 2017

This website seems to be about Illinois law. According to that document:

7. New Tenancy Created if Rent is Accepted After Termination
If you stay beyond the termination date and the landlord accepts rent from you, a new
month – to – month tenancy is created, and must be terminated as set out in the oral
lease section of this chapter.

So, they have already created a month to month lease by accepting your August payment. They almost certainly need to give you more than 3 days notice for a rent increase, which is essentially what they are insisting on by strong arming you into signing. I can't find any details about this, but here is the legislation.
posted by kjs4 at 8:58 PM on August 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Read your old lease. That should have your legal rights in it. That document you linked to is insane, and I wouldn't want to sign it either.
posted by kjs4 at 9:03 PM on August 30, 2017

Contact the State Attorney General's office...they may be able to help. Or, really your state legislator. They live for this sort of thing.

Here's some info from the state AG.
posted by fyrebelley at 9:12 PM on August 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

You know what?
This contract looks like it was written by someone that was copying and pasting and not paying attention. A ton of those items won't even exist in lots of places. In fact, who has ever even heard of a partial peep hole? What does that even mean?

Call the company. Tell them you want to meet in person to review the lease. Show them this page and ask them to explain what they think you will be charged for at move-out under this plan. Bring your old lease (hopefully it has a good move out policy) and ask if you can just carry that over rather than this mess.

Put all of it in writing. Sign it. If they want to leave this messy page in there, fine, but strike the whole page with a big X, write "see attached move out policy procedure" or whatever, and make sure you and the company rep sign and date on that page showing it is invalid.

Big picture is this company has a very unclear contract that makes no sense, and I bet they don't even know it's mess. You are being a good business partner in helping them make a better contract. Good luck.
posted by littlewater at 9:27 PM on August 30, 2017 [5 favorites]

OK, yeah, reading this carefully, it looks like the bottom part is all "if you steal this or destroy this, you'll get charged for it." The top section is all "if you don't clean your apartment, we'll charge you for doing some stuff." I think this is a generic boilerplate thing that they probably got from some website somewhere. Obviously you can ask or whatever, and it never hurts to ask, but I think this is just vaguely worded--I don't think they're trying to soak you for an infinite amount of money.

Of course, who knows what you'll be charged for anyway. I always got hit for random things when I moved out of apartments, and it was never the stuff I deserved to be charged for.
posted by Slinga at 6:07 AM on August 31, 2017

I've been renting for most of my 20 years in Chicago and this is very far outside the norm for leases here. I would check in with as many tenants' rights groups as you can find until you get some solid advice on this, like the couple mentioned upthread or this one. If you're in Chicago and have the resources to pay a lawyer, a friend of mine does real estate law here and I could refer you to her. Otherwise you may be able to get some free advice from a tenants group.

Personally I'd pay the *current* rent for September, and inform the landlord in writing that you are withholding the additional increase amount in reserve until you receive legal advice regarding both the increase and other terms of the lease; because it is your understanding that it is contrary to Illinois tenant law to increase the rent with only 3 days notice.

A lot of times with landlord questions in AskMe I end up thinking "yep, shitty but par for the course for landlords" but this is pretty egregious. I've twice lived in buildings that got sold during my tenancy and they have been *more* lenient, not less, with security deposit/move out condition because that's just how it works when you purchase an already-occupied building.
posted by misskaz at 6:20 AM on August 31, 2017 [3 favorites]

This website seems to be about Illinois law. According to that document:

This website is specifically about Chicago rentals. A lot of answers here are conflating state and local law. Illinois has a landlord-tenant law, AND Chicago has its own specific ordinance. If OP is not in Chicago then Chicago-specific resources won't necessarily apply.
posted by mama casserole at 8:19 AM on August 31, 2017

Just wanted to say thanks to everyone for your help. We went up to the rental office this morning and talked to the manager. When she heard we had been in the unit 15 years she said "oh of course this would not apply to you, they will update and replace everything in the apartment when you move out!" We asked her to put it in writing and she did, after double checking with the regional manager. So that is encouraging that both the manager and the regional did not hesitate to put it in writing.

I appreciate all the resources above. We will need to take a look through them just to understand our rights better going forward.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 8:33 AM on August 31, 2017 [15 favorites]

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