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posted: 8/21/2011 12:01 AM

Rental forum: How much is too much carpet cleaning?

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Q. Is it reasonable that I have the carpet cleaned every time a tenant moves out? My current tenant has lived there for only six months and he is already requesting I clean the carpets! I'm not even sure the tenant has soiled the carpet enough to warrant a professional steam cleaning. Will too much carpet cleaning shorten the life of my carpet?

A. Your question is very basic but it is an interesting one. Most landlords consider cleaning the carpet to be a routine and standard procedure as part of their turnover and unit preparation between tenants. Having a clean carpet is really part of the overall sanitizing of the rental unit and an important step in having a quality rent-ready unit that will attract a qualified tenant. So while it may not be required by law, I would agree with your policy of steam cleaning the carpet between each tenant in virtually all circumstances.

But you also ask another interesting question about what to do when a current tenant wants you to steam clean the carpet during his or her tenancy. I think you are essentially asking if you can steam clean your carpet too often?

In my 30-plus years of experience as a property manager, I believe that under certain circumstances you can shorten the life of some carpets by steam cleaning them too often. It will be a function of the type and quality of the carpet and exactly how and how often the carpet is steam cleaned. The carpet threads will separate from the backing, or the fibers will lose their texture and thickness, and the carpet will feel and even look threadbare and severely worn.

So it sounds like your tenant may be asking for steam cleaning twice a year, and that may be too much unless you have a very hearty and robust carpet. But I don't think that steam cleaning the typical apartment-grade carpet between tenants when you have an average length of tenancy of 12 to 18 months would be a problem. It certainly is not required in any way for you as a landlord, but if your tenant could agree to a steam cleaning of the carpets periodically, it would prolong the life of the carpet. But too often would not be good. Like most things in life, moderation is the answer.

But the concept of steam cleaning too often is somewhat confusing too because my experience tells me having a clean carpet is critical to getting the maximum life from your carpet. Keeping your carpet clean should start with efforts to prevent or minimize getting it excessively dirty in the first place. Besides avoiding activities that could be bad for your carpet (I once had a tenant that repaired motorcycles in his living room on the carpet because he said it was better for his knees!), you can use vinyl or carpet runners or throw rugs in traffic patterns or in front of entry doors.

Regularly vacuuming the carpet is also another important factor that can really make a significant difference in reducing the wear and tear on your carpet. Now, for those of you that really want to research this topic further, I suggest you go to the website of the Carpet and Rug Institute (www.carpet-rug.org).

Q. We have rented a two-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles for several years and we are not on the ground floor. We now have a 1-year-old son who is becoming quite active, and we are concerned for his safety. I was wondering if the landlord was required by law to install window guards or if that's just our responsibility?

A. No, there is no law requiring your landlord to install window guards. So if you want window guards, then you should contact the landlord and ask that they be installed and that you will pay for them. The landlord might voluntarily agree to absorb the cost, but is not required to do so legally. The only exception that I am aware of is for certain rental properties in New Jersey and in New York City.

I would expect that per your lease or rental agreement, you do not have the right to modify the building without the owner's permission. If any such work were to be done, it would be by the owner or his selected contractor. While not true in every state, because you are in California, there is a state law requiring your landlord provide window locks, so maybe that will help. But of course if you unlock and open the window for ventilation, etc., then that is your choice, but it would negate any safety benefit of the window locks.

Also, assuming that the windows are a standard height above the floor (and not at floor level), then be sure to keep all furniture or anything a child can climb up onto away from the windows. However, over the years I have seen many unusual window locations in rental units, which can also be an important factor. If you have windows that are at the floor level and open (some older properties were built this way but not many), then you may have a better argument that the landlord should financially participate in the installation of the window guards. A faster and cheaper option for these floor level windows is to just have them permanently secured so they cannot open.

You need to take the steps that you feel are appropriate to protect your child and family. Your concerns are legitimate and I am glad your question allows this important safety issue to be a reminder for tenants with young children.

• Property manager Robert Griswold is author of "Property Management for Dummies." Email rgriswold.inman@retodayradio.com.

$PHOTOCREDIT_ON$ 2011, Inman News Features$PHOTOCREDIT_OFF$

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