Q: I rent an apartment in St. Paul and the lease is coming to an end. My lease says I am responsible for professional cleaning and professional carpet cleaning. In looking at the Minnesota tenant protection information online it appears that I don't have to do this, although it is in my lease. Can you tell me if I am responsible for this professional type of cleaning?
A: Minnesota law states that tenants are required to leave a rental home or apartment in the same condition it was at the beginning of their tenancy, excluding ordinary wear and tear from living there. A security deposit is allowed under the law, as it is used to cover any damage the tenant may have caused to the unit.
Sometimes landlords put set fees in their leases for things like new carpet or other such items, and courts have not allowed those lease-determined fees since those items should be covered by the damage deposit. Most landlords do not require professional cleaning or have those types of provisions in their lease, since the security deposit covers any damages outside ordinary wear and tear. If, after you left, the carpets required professional cleaning, then it would be permissible for the landlord to charge against the security deposit for that service.
However, most courts do not allow for automatic assessment for professional cleaning without regard to the condition of the unit or carpet, as that would be considered part of the landlord's cost of doing business. You should clean the apartment as well as you can so it is in the same condition as when you first moved in, excluding ordinary wear and tear.
If your landlord asks you about having the carpet professionally cleaned, you should let them know that the security deposit covers damages outside of ordinary wear and tear and that you aren't responsible for professionally cleaning his carpet for the next tenant.
If your landlord withholds some of your security deposit to cover the cost of having your carpet professionally cleaned, you should file a conciliation court claim in the county where you live. You should also take photos of your rental apartment after you clean it to use as evidence in case your landlord withholds your security deposit and you need to file a claim.
Kelly Klein is a Minneapolis attorney. Participation in this column does not create an attorney/client relationship with Klein. Do not rely on advice in this column for legal opinions. Consult an attorney regarding your particular issues. E-mail renting questions to email@example.com. Information provided by readers is not confidential.