How much is too much carpet cleaning?

Landlord fears tenant request will shorten product’s life

Robert Griswold
Inman News™

Q: Is it reasonable that I have the carpet cleaned every time a tenant moves out? I do it because I see it as part of the maintenance and keeping with the value of my property.

My current tenant has lived there for only six months and he is already requesting I clean the carpets! I’m not even sure that 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.

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 12-18 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 could prolong the life of the carpet. Too often, though, may not be a good thing. 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 that 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 who 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 (

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: There are window guard laws in New York City and New Jersey, for example — and check to see if there are such laws in your city or state — but in most areas of the country your landlord is not required to install window guards. So if you want window guards, then you should contact the landlord and ask that they be installed. You may, however, be responsible for the cost of the window guards. The landlord might voluntarily agree to absorb the cost but is not required to do so legally.

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. 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 onto away from the windows.

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 have them permanently secured so they cannot open.

Again, except in New Jersey and New York City there is no legal requirement that I am aware of that would require them to install window guards regardless of the configuration of the windows.

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.

This column on issues confronting tenants and landlords is written by property manager Robert Griswold, author of "Property Management for Dummies" and "Property Management Kit for Dummies" and co-author of "Real Estate Investing for Dummies."

Email your questions to Rental Q&A at Questions should be brief and cannot be answered individually.

Contact Robert Griswold:
"Email" Email "Letter Letter to the Editor

Copyright 2011 Robert Griswold