Edited questions from Apartment Life, Sara Gebhardt's online discussion about rental issues.
QWashington: My curling iron burned the countertop in my bathroom. Is there any way to remove the burn mark? Will my landlord keep the entire deposit to replace the entire countertop?
AHow bad is the burn? I am not sure of home remedies that might help you fix the problem, and it's entirely possible that your landlord will use some or all of your security deposit to replace the countertop. Landlords are supposed to give you an itemized list of deductions from your deposit, though, so if you think you're being penalized too much for the countertop damage, ask to see the receipt for repair work.
Arlington: I'm renting a townhouse. The landlord shares it part time. He is obsessive-compulsive about everything. He noticed "scuff marks" on the wall that are really just faint marks where someone might have put their hands. Isn't that part of normal wear and tear? He is going to have them repainted (instead of waiting until I move out) and I'd like to know if I'm liable for those. The walls are not damaged at all.
Yes, it seems as if this is normal wear and tear. In our last discussion, I believe, many people suggested using gum erasers for removing scuff marks from walls. Perhaps you should try to clean off the scuff marks. It's hard to say if he will hold you liable for the walls, but he doesn't have much of a case. And I'd be suspicious of him repainting before you move out. Most landlords only do such things if they're planning something else . . . perhaps selling the place.
Georgetown: I'm subletting a house for the summer and arrived the last week of May. The second day I was there, the water shut off. I called the water company to see if the bill was overdue, but everything had been paid in full. The representative said that there had been a request by the house owner to turn the water off -- my landlord said that wasn't true and that the company shut it off for the wrong property. Whatever the case, I'm now getting a $50 charge for having it turned on. I think it is either the water company's mistake or my landlord's, but I'm afraid I'm going to get stuck paying it. What should I do?
You should tell your landlord to work out the problem with the water company and explain that you do not want to get stuck with the $50 charge.
Anonymous: Are you supposed to get back your security deposit plus interest when you leave?
Depending on the state in which you live, you may or may not be entitled to interest on your security deposit. Most states nowadays require a landlord to give deposits back with interest.
Sara Gebhardt's Apartment Life column appears biweekly in this section, and her Web chat appears monthly on www.washingtonpost.com. The next chat is scheduled for Aug. 12 at 2 p.m.