If you’re about to move out of your apartment, the security deposit you paid way back when you signed your lease may be on your mind. All of a sudden, it seems like your rental is in need of a thousand repairs, and you can’t remember if the issues were there when you moved in or not. The most used rooms in the home are typically the spaces in need of immediate assistance — and among the most-used rooms in the home is the kitchen.
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How you care — or don’t care — for your kitchen could come with serious costs. And it’s not just about losing your security deposit; in some cases, you may be held responsible for maintenance bills after you leave depending on the severity of the damage. So before your landlord comes by for an inspection, keep in mind they’d rather not see these 10 things in your kitchen.
A Good Old-Fashioned Mess
“Dirty dishes left for a few days, spoiled food, and overfilled trash bins are my pet peeves,” says Brisbane, Australia-based property manager Lorinda Vorster. “This will lead to flies, vermin, rodent infestations, and very unpleasant smells.”
Vorster has been a property manager for nearly two decades, and currently oversees a complex with dozens of rental units, in addition to managing the property’s grounds, gardens, maintenance, and health and safety. “I’m very clear on my rules and regulations when tenants apply for a rental in my complex,” she says.
Not keeping your kitchen clean could impact other people in your building — say, if mice drop by — or require professional help if things get serious. For that reason, it’s important to dispose of waste properly.
“I don’t like seeing people using their ovens as a source of heat,” says Cassidy Fyvie-Gillespie, a landlord overseeing nine units in Worcester, Massachusetts.
“I do not like seeing cluttered kitchen countertops,” Vorster continues. “It prevents tenants from properly cleaning their kitchen on a daily basis, and grease and dirt will accumulate.” Built-up dirt and grease can lead to staining, as well as other problems further down the line.
Basically, general clutter in a kitchen could lead to the mess that causes bigger issues like pest infestations.
Ants are sometimes unavoidable, depending on your geographical location and the season. Occasionally, ant infestations will require professional extermination, but in most scenarios they can be knocked out with some trusty ant traps.
Whichever way you decide to handle it — or, request that your landlord handle it — it’s always best to manage the infestation before it gets out of hand. If improperly handled, ant nests can split up and multiply, causing numerous infestations in various areas throughout the building.
This same rule of thumb goes for any infestation you might be dealing with: Mice, cockroaches, termites, and mold included. The last thing your landlord will want to see once you’ve moved out is blatant evidence of termites that they’ve been left in the dark about.
“I have called a plumber a few times to unblock kitchen drains,” Vorster says. “If the tenants are responsible for the blocked drain due to negligence, they didn’t use a sink strainer to prevent food scraps from going down, or they poured anything that would cause the drain to block, they are responsible for the payment of the bill.”
In addition to unpleasant smells that could signal a tenant isn’t disposing of their trash regularly, smoke and animal odors may indicate that a tenant isn’t taking proper care of their home. Smoking cigarettes indoors can cause stains and smells to seep into the walls.
“If I need to get KILZ paint to cover the smell, the tenant isn’t getting their deposit back,” Fyvie-Gillespie says. “Or if there’s any animal scent that takes more than a broom sweep to fix.”
This goes without saying, but it warrants repeating: If your kitchen isn’t in good shape when your lease is up, you probably aren’t going to be getting your deposit back.
“If there are holes to patch, the floors are damaged, or too many cabinets are broken, the deposit needs to go towards those repairs,” Fyvie-Gillespie says. “And we’re not talking about normal wear and tear.”
But damage isn’t the only thing that could spell disaster for your deposit.
“Tenants won’t get their deposit back if the property isn’t properly cleaned when they leave,” Vorster says. “This includes dirty cupboards, soap scum, and build-up of dirt in the kitchen.”
Unexpected Broken Items
Things happen. Landlords are aware of this. Cabinet doors come off their hinges, oven light bulbs burn out, shelves fall, and tile floors can chip. Items and structural aspects of your kitchen will break over time from normal wear and tear, and typically, a landlord anticipates that they’ll have to call someone in for repairs every now and again.
But ultimately, a landlord or property manager shouldn’t be surprised by this once you’ve moved out. If your cabinet doors broke, let them know when it happened so they’re not left wondering how long they’ve been broken for. It’s very simple common courtesy, but it will go a long way.
“Sticky fly catchers hanging from the ceiling are never a good sign,” Fyvie-Gillespie says.
When they get out of hand, insects and vermin can also be a sign that a tenant isn’t taking care of their unit properly. And because those critters can move through the walls, they might find a home in someone else’s unit in your building.
If you keep a clean home and you’re still seeing pests, talk with your landlord about hiring an exterminator. The problem might be originating at one of your neighbor’s apartments.
Oh, You Know, Unidentifiable Goop
“When we bought our second building, we had to call in a professional cleaner to help deep clean the kitchen,” Fyvie-Gillespie recalls. “The walls were covered in God only knows… it was brown.”