Security deposit vs. wood floors
March 8, 2007 2:00 PM   Subscribe

I'm moving out of my San Francisco apartment, after renting it for almost 4 years. My wood floors have taken a beating. Any ideas what I can do to make them look their very best for my final inspection? Is there a definition of normal wear and tear?

I had a futon in my studio to save some space for awhile. I put carpeted pads on the feet of it, but there is still a superficial track of wear from the months of pulling out the bed every night. It's not terrible, but I think it will be noticeable. I have plans to apply Murphy's Oil once or twice before my initial inspection, but I'd like to be prepared. I've searched SF Tenant's Union website and a few others but can't find what normal wear and tear on a wood floor constitutes. Also, with over $2000 invested in the deposit, what worst-case scenario can I expect if they ask me to pay for any repairs to/refinishing the floor.

I don't know what kind of wood it is or how it's treated/finished.
posted by juliplease to Law & Government (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
A polish, like Murphy's oil, won't do too much, except make it shiney (I know, I use a similar product on my wood floors). The only thing that will really restore it is sanding, staining, and finishing. You can do it yourself (sanders can be rented at Home Depot), but it's possible to ruin your floor. Hiring a professional is safer. I had a guy do my living room (~15x20) for $400 (I'm in NY). Also, a pro will be able to tell what kind of wood/finish you have, and make recommendations.

Your landlord could be a dick, and charge a lot (even the entire $2000) for "wear and tear". When I left my apartment (was there 5 years), I had steam cleaned the carpet about a year prior (it was worn/dirty when I moved in), and the landlord (a bit of a dick) complained about the "terrible shape" it was in (it wasn't). After a little back and forth, he only hit me for $50.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 2:22 PM on March 8, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks, ORM, that was helpful.

I should mention that I rent from a property management that has always been on the up-and-up during my tenancy, so I'm not concerned about being screwed by a greedy landlord. I just want to get as much of my deposit back as possible.
posted by juliplease at 2:28 PM on March 8, 2007

I am in the same boat, so I am interested to hear these responses. Hardwoo- floored apt in SF, moving out in a few months, we definitely added some scuffs and scratches.

I think any intelligent and reasonable landlord expects *some* wear n' tear, especially after 4 years of renting.
posted by gnutron at 2:39 PM on March 8, 2007

In California, you don't pay for normal wear and tear. See (b)(2), "exclusive of ordinary wear and tear".

Ideally, there should be a sliding scale of how much damage you've done to the flooring vs. how long you've been living there vs. the expected lifetime of the floor. If a wood floor normally has to be refinished every 8 years, and you've completely trashed the floor in only 4, you should only have to pay for 50% of the cost of refinishing, since you've already paid for the other half in your monthly rent over the past four years.

(8 years is just a random figure to make the math easier.)

Sorry for getting off topic...

Also, in California, I believe you can arrange for a pre-inspection of your apartment, where the landlord will give you estimated charges for fixing whatever needs to be fixed. This gives you an opportunity, before this money is actually withheld, to fix it yourself. But it also gives the landlord an idea of where to pay more attention during the actual inspection.
posted by lalas at 2:40 PM on March 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I agree, gnutron, here's hoping it works out that way.

Thanks for the resources, lalas. I have already scheduled my pre-inspection-inspection-thing but, as you state, I'm hoping to give them nothing to really worry about. I want to have the floors in the best shape possible by then. I might try some of the ideas in this thread, too.

I know I don't have to pay for normal wear and tear. I guess I'd like to try to anticipate where the line between "normal" and "wow, that's kind of a big scratch" falls in SF and then find myself on the better side of that line.
posted by juliplease at 3:35 PM on March 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

I have used Rejuvenate and it works great. It won't completely remove scratches, but your landlord will be so blinded by the floor's shine s/he probably won't notice. There are similar products at the Home Depot if you can't wait for shipping, but I haven't tried them.
posted by CMichaelCook at 4:24 PM on March 8, 2007

My floor refinisher (from Pacifica) recommends this to disguise minor floor damage. I've used it with some success on single deep scratches and some light abrasion marks (from furniture moving). Though I've never done it, he also told me he can "screen" the floor to remove superficial damage and then finish with a coat of new urethane.
posted by namret at 6:22 PM on March 8, 2007

I spent 4 years in two different apartments with wood floors. Both were refinished before we moved in. The first got scratched very badly, the second had hardly a scratch anywhere when we moved out. Not all poly coats are created equal. I didn't get hit for security for either. I assume the first landlord realized he made a mistake getting his floors done on the cheap (it was his first rental). The second was in an apt building with lots of experience so I guess they figured that the original extra spend would save them having to refinish the floors between tenants.
posted by any major dude at 7:16 PM on March 8, 2007

For actual scratches in the wood, I've used wood markers; you can pick them up at Bed, Bath, and Beyond or similar stores. I've used them in conjunction with Murphy's and other techniques and never lost part of a deposit. This doesn't refurbish the wood, just can be used to even out the color.
posted by arnicae at 7:19 PM on March 8, 2007

Response by poster: Thank you, thank you, thank you. I appreciate all your input. I guess I have some exciting projects and experiments to test on wood floors to conduct this weekend!
posted by juliplease at 9:34 PM on March 8, 2007

Response by poster: errr... you know what I meant.
posted by juliplease at 9:46 PM on March 8, 2007

Isn't this why people use security as the last month's rent?
posted by dame at 6:20 AM on March 9, 2007

Response by poster: Unfortunately, it's written into my lease that I can't use any of my deposit to pay my LMR. And if I could, my deposit is still just under twice that. I looked into this clause, too, and it's OK by CA law.
posted by juliplease at 9:47 AM on March 9, 2007

I'd use a lemon oil product over Murphy's, because if your floor isn't sealed, sloshing a bunch of water on it isn't going to help matters. 99% likely it is sealed, though.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 12:53 PM on March 12, 2007

Response by poster: And the results...

If anyone cares, I cleaned them twice with Murphy's Oil and once more with a different polisher. I also tried a wood marker for the troublesome spots. They looked better but still not great. So I shrugged my shoulders and moved.

They didn't deduct anything from my security deposit for the floors. And they did refinish the floors before they rented the place. The pictures on looked BEAUTIFUL and I wish I'd taken better care of that floor when I lived there. They also raised the rent.
posted by juliplease at 9:42 PM on May 15, 2007

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