Questions for Kyle – What to Do About Kitchen Odors

Spice rack

Image by paige_eliz via Flickr

I’ll be starting a new series of articles each Wednesday that aims to answer some common (and not so common) questions with good, down-to-earth advice that’s easy to understand. We’re kicking things off a little late this week, but better late than never! Feel free to send me you’re questions that you’d like me to answer in this forum that everyone can benefit from.

One great thing about living in a city as large as Seattle is the incredible diversity we get to experience. As landlords and property managers, this can pose a unique challenge though.

At SeattleRentals, we often get calls from landlords and tenants asking if it is legal for a landlord to keep a security deposit because of lingering smells from the kitchen. There are a couple of things that we like to tell people when answering their questions.

  1. Be Sensitive: When discussing lingering kitchen odors, remember that they are there because your tenant enjoys cooking a certain way. Whether it’s fried chicken or curry or strong garlic scent, kitchen odors ARE NOT “stinky” or “smell”. There are certainly strong, distinct smells, but to use derogatory language like that can easily be construed as discrimination. Plus, it’s just flat out rude! Remember to be sensitive and tactful when choosing how to discuss odors in a unit.
  2. Treat Food Odors Just Like Any Other Odor: If a tenant with pets moves out and leaves strong odors of pets behind, as a landlord it’s your responsibility to make the unit habitable for the next tenant. If a tenant smokes in a unit and leaves the scent of smoke behind when they leave, it falls on you to get rid of the scent for the next tenant. And it’s well within your legal rights to keep deposits to cover the cost of cleaning to get rid of these odors. Cooking odors are no different, as long as you abide by the first point! It can be a fine line to walk, but as a landlord you are entitled to and responsible for having a habitable unit for your next tenant. You can keep the portion of the deposit that is necessary to cover the cost of making the unit clean for the next tenant.

Have more questions on the issue? Feel free to email me, or interact with us on Facebook and Twitter! And don’t be afraid to ask any other questions. If you don’t ask, you may never know the answers.

*Disclaimer: This article provides information. Information is not the same as legal advice. Neither this site nor this article provides legal services or advice. We strive to create accurate and useful content, but you should consult a lawyer to interpret and apply information to your specific situation.

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