There have been some great posts on here discussing the tenant/landlord relationship and responsibilities - who pays for what when there's damage. I look forward to comments on the transaction I'm about to share.
Recently, some clients called me about problems they were having with their landlord from whom they had rented for a year while their home sold. They asked my opinion as to who is responsible for paying for what.
The landlord is trying to withhold a substantial amount of money for "damages" done to the property - some real, some imagined, some exaggerated. The "damages" range from hot glue on the carpet (obvious damage) to tape on the walls which pulled away the paint and some of the top coat of plaster (damage.)
One of the things the landlord is insisting the tenant pay is for the replacement of the filter in the ornamental fountain in the front yard due to lack of use - $850. There is supposedly a minor scratch on one of the end tables for which the landlord wants $300 to have refinished. There were barstools at the kitchen breakfast bar which the landlord states were ruined beyond repair and she wants recovered at the rate of $300/chair - 3 chairs. It's just the bottom cushion which can easily be recovered with new fabric and a staple gun. There is a cracked tile on the floor behind the front door which the landlord wants replaced at the rate of $250. The grout in front of the oven and stove area is slightly dirtier than the rest of the grout in the kitchen because of cooking and will cost over $750 to clean.
The clients asked my opinion and I started with the caveat of this is only my opinion, but.......Then, the clients asked if I would put my comments in writing as they plan to go to court to get their money back. This is where it got interesting. As I was not party to their previous lease and had not SEEN the extent of the "damage", my "opinion" would be of no value to any one. I advised him to contact his previous real estate agent - the one who put them into the furnished home - and discuss everything with him.
My advice when trying to determine who pays for what in a rental situation is to spell everything out at the time of the lease. Is it a requirement for the tenant to run the fountain at their expense a minimum of once a week to keep it functioning? Also, take pictures, pictures, and even more pictures - especially when renting a furnished home. I don't know if the pictures would help determine who put the scratch in the table or who broke the floor tile in a very obscure area (not the actual photos but internet stock photos), but at least the judge would know due diligence was taken on everyone's part.
Bottom line, work with an experienced real estate agent who will be there for you BEFORE AND AFTER your transaction.