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  • Landlords: Do You Know the Difference Between Normal Wear Versus Tenant Damage?

  • As a landlord, you have the responsibility to keep your property clean and in good condition. When a tenant moves out, you may have considerable costs in getting your space ready for the next tenant. You can use the tenant’s security deposit to pay for damages done that are beyond the scope of normal wear and tear.

    The question then becomes, what exactly is considered normal wear and tear, and what damages are you able to pay from the tenant’s security deposit? You want to be fair and just to your tenants, but if they have committed damage to your property, they are responsible for the costs of repair.

    At Lightning Carpet Care, we often receive these questions from landlords and tenants, so we wanted to shed some light.

    What is normal wear and tear?

    Normal wear and tear or reasonable wear and tear are the landlord’s responsibility to repair. However, what is considered normal wear and tear can cause disagreements between tenants and landlords. To add to the confusion, local and state laws are likely to be different depending on your area. Wear and tear is what you can reasonably expect to happen to a property when people are living in it. Here are some guidelines to help you determine if the damage is severe or the product of everyday use. Be sure to check your local laws.

    The following are considered normal wear and tear:

    • Faded carpet or flooring
    • Light stains on carpeting that is several years old
    • Grout becoming loose in the bathroom tile
    • Paint or wallpaper that is faded, cracked, or peeling
    • Loose door handles
    • Scuffs on painted walls
    • Doors sticking due to humidity
    • Windowpanes cracking due to shifts in the foundation
    • Light scratching or watermarks on countertops
    • Cracks in the walls or ceiling due to the house settling

    What is considered damage by a tenant?

    Living in a home or apartment naturally causes some amount of normal deterioration. However, when you see unexpected damage to your property, beyond normal wear and tear, you can deduct the cost of repair from the tenant’s security deposit. This type of damage may have happened due to neglect, on purpose, or by accident, but it’s not the landlord’s responsibility to cover the costs of property damage. 

    Here are some guidelines to what is considered unexpected damage by a tenant:

    • Stains and burns in the carpet
    • Damage from pets
    • Doors ripped off their hinges
    • Flooring that is damaged and chipped
    • Chipped enamel in the shower or bathtub
    • Broken windows
    • Unapproved wallpaper or paint on the walls

    What damage is a landlord responsible for?

    Not all damage on a property is the fault of the tenant. Landlords are responsible for maintaining the property, and when damage is done that was not caused by the tenant, you are responsible for repairing it.

    Some examples of this are:

    • Maintaining pipes and plumbing
    • Repairing HVAC
    • Cracks in the ceiling or roof due to structural faults
    • Keeping the property up to code with your local laws and regulations

    What steps should landlords take to protect themselves?

    Perform an inspection with your tenant upon their moving in and moving out. Take before and after photos. This will provide you with documentation if you have a dispute with your tenant regarding damage to your property. Keep paperwork on damages and the costs of repair. Let your tenants know during the move-in inspection what they can expect to happen if unexpected damages occur to your property. 

    You can also offer or require annual professional carpet cleanings to tenants to ensure your property stays in the best condition possible.

    Screen your tenants. You can prevent a lot of problems by renting to responsible tenants in the first place. Responsible tenants will not neglect or damage your property. A thorough background check can help you to evaluate your tenants before you rent. Tenant background checks can include a tenant eviction search. When you screen your applicants, you can help to ensure that you will increase your profitability and reduce the chance of loss by renting to tenants that have a previous history of being responsible renters. 

    The Takeaway

    It’s important to know the difference between normal wear and tear and damage caused by tenants. The best way for both tenants and landlords to protect themselves is to document everything and take pictures. By having evidence, you have a better chance of avoiding conflict, but if you do need to go to court, you will have the proof to back yourself up.

    Give us a call at 407.864.9680 for a free quote or inspection, or request your free quote online today to see how we can help.