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Carpet Burn

Questions over carpet cleaning are submitted to Ask An Expert with surprising regularity. We report on a recent Tenancy Tribunal decision that deals with a conflict over the issue.


1 April 2019

It’s one of those areas of rental property confusion that comes up time and time again. Carpets – or more specifically, dirty or damaged carpets and what that means at the end of a tenancy. While it might seem straightforward, questions about carpets are among the most frequently asked queries submitted to our property management expert.

That’s because it’s an area that is very situation specific. Throw in the tensions around damage in the post-Osaki world and the spectre of pets in rentals and it can easily become a minefield. Indeed, one of the Tenancy Tribunal’s most controversial rulings in recent years revolved around the damage done to a carpet by pets in a property that had a no-pet clause in the tenancy agreement.

In the case of Tekoa Trust v Stewart, the Tribunal originally ruled in favour of the tenant, although that decision was later overturned by the Palmerston North District Court. But in a Tribunal ruling on a different carpet damage dispute earlier this year, the Tribunal came to a very different decision.

Timmons v Quinovic Property Management involved a number of claims and counter-claims from both parties. However, one of the central issues was whether or not the tenant complied with their obligation to leave the premises reasonably clean and tidy at the end of the tenancy. And a huge part of this was the condition of the carpet.

The tenancy agreement prohibited pets, yet the tenant confirmed she had one cat at the property throughout the tenancy while a second cat lived there for a month or so, and the family dog was also present several days a week. At the end of the tenancy, she hired Rug Doctor equipment to clean the carpets and felt they were left in a reasonable condition.

But the landlord’s evidence (including photos taken at the final inspection) showed there was dog hair on the carpets, several stains and burn marks on the carpet and cat faeces under a stairwell. The landlord’s contractors also reported the presence of fleas. The fleas had to be treated and the carpets cleaned. Further, on the cleaning checklist sent to the tenant it had been specified that Rug Doctor equipment could not be used to clean the carpets.

On the evidence supplied, the Tribunal was satisfied that the fleas were likely caused by the tenant’s pets at the property and that the carpet stains and marks occurred during the tenancy. It also found the stains and marks were not successfully removed by the Rug Doctor cleaning.

For those reasons, the tenant was found responsible for the costs of the flea treatment and carpet cleaning. Further, the tenant’s claim for recovery of the Rug Doctor costs was dismissed. While the carpet cleaning and treatment costs only came in at $298 (out of the total of $1,305 costs awarded to the landlord), the landlord was also advised to consider laying a separate claim for costs for the replacement of some of the damaged carpet.


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