Reader Question: Furnished Rentals

This question comes to me from a reader: “I’ve lived in a furnished home for 5 years. I’ve paid over $150,000.00 in rent. The home owner want me to pay for the Living Rm, Dining Rm and 2 Bedroom Set. Should I have to replace these furnishings?”

My first response was: heck, no.

Then I thought about a little. My response is still, probably not, but there could be situations where the renter is on the hook for the furniture.

Who Is Responsible for Replacement Furniture in a Rental Apartment
Typically, a furnished rental costs more than an unfurnished unit. The higher fee is intended to cover the initial cost of purchasing the furniture as well as the cost to replace it. The landlord is responsible for the cost of normal wear and tear for furniture.

However, unless it’s really cheap furniture, it should last more than five years. We recently replaced our sofa and chair. They were twelve years old. They are actually still very comfortable, but they were too big for our home and needed new slipcovers because the dry cleaner had ruined them. I expect to keep our new furniture for ten years, too. Longer for the less frequently used furniture like the guest sofabed.

If furniture is already in need of replacement after five years and it was new when the unit was rented, then the renter may have caused damage to the furniture. Pets can and often do ruin furniture. I hate to say this so bluntly, but very large people can also break furniture or wear it out faster. Children can be culprits, too.

If you, the tenant, have damaged the furniture, then you are responsible for replacing it, just as you would be if you burned a hole in the carpet or broke a window.

If your furniture is in decent condition and you just want it upgraded, check your lease and state laws to see how often furniture in rentals must be replaced. If you’re not at that point, then you have to share the burden.

If the furniture hasn’t been damaged by the tenant, but it has already worn out, then ask the landlord for the receipts for the original furniture. One look at the price and retailer should tell you whether the furniture was good quality. If it wasn’t, then the landlord should pay to replace it because he is the person who bought the crappy furniture in the first place.

The Case Against Furnished Apartments
Furnished apartments are usually intended to be short-term rentals – six to nine months is usually the most someone stays in a furnished apartment. They’re more typically rented by vacationers or business travels who would like a longer stay in a more homey environment than a hotel. They certainly shouldn’t be rented for five years. After a year, you’re just throwing money away.

A furnished apartment is at least $200 more than an unfurnished unit, and could be as much as $500 more, depending on the size of the property and its location. That’s fine if you’re only staying one to four weeks.

So, let’s assume the reader was paying $200 more than the rent for an unfurnished rental. She’s been paying $2500 a month for five years. That’s $2400 extra dollars a year, or an extra $12,000. That’s some pretty pricey furniture!

You can furnish an apartment pretty basically for around $3000 if you shop carefully on Craigslist or at stores like Ikea, then upgrade your furniture over time.

Before you pay extra to rent a furnished apartment, think carefully about how long you plan to be there. If you’re paying it yourself (in other words, you’re not a business traveler on long-term assignment), is the additional cost really worth the reduced hassled of buying your own furniture?

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