What Exactly is Normal "Wear and Tear"

As a property owner, it’s normal to experience different kinds of tenants. Some tenants will take care of your rental unit, and others will tend to be more negligent.
Before a tenant occupies your unit, it’s fairly common to ask for a security deposit. This allow you to deduct the costs of damage from the deposit when the tenancy ends. However, this does not include normal wear and tear.

So then, what is the distinction between the two? What is considered damage, and what is considered normal wear and tear?

At McGuire Property Management and Sales, we want to share all there is to know with you. So, keep on reading!

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Definition of Wear and Tear

Let’s start by defining wear and tear.

When living in a property over time, it is normal for wear and tear to occur. When a home is inhabited, it’s impossible not to leave any traces behind. For example, light scratches on a kitchen counter top are reasonable because that is where a tenant prepares their meals. Visible slight watermarks on a surface is another example of possible “wear and tear.”

In cases like these, the tenant did not intentionally damage the property. It's natural depreciation that has occured from living in the space.

Here are other examples of normal wear and tear that might be present in your rental unit:

  1. Small cracks on the wall
  2. A few tiny nail holes
  3. Light smudges, scrapes, dents
  4. Fading paint
  5. Slightly torn or faded wallpaper
  6. Dirty or faded window shades
  7. Appearance of scuffed varnish on wood floors
  8. Cabinet doors that are difficult to close
  9. Rusty shower rods
  10. Dirty or faded shower curtains
  11. Worn varnish in sinks and bathtubs
  12. Partially clogged sinks that are attributed to aging pipes
  13. Black spots on a mirror
  14. Loose bathroom tiles and/or loose grouting

Definition of Excessive Damage

Since damage is deducted from the tenant’s security deposit, it’s vital to understand what is considered as damage. Excessive damage refers to the destruction or deterioration of your rental unit. This is the result of intentional or negligent tenant behavior. In fact, this can be a reason for an eviction.

Here are common examples of excessive damage:

  1. Several visible nail holes
  2. Visible drawings and/or crayon marks on the wall
  3. Carpet holes, stains and burns
  4. Difficult to remove stains on a carpet
  5. Torn and heavily stained window shades
  6. Chipped wood floors
  7. Pet damages such as visible scratches on the floors
  8. Broken doors or hinges
  9. Broken windows
  10. Missing bathroom tiles
  11. Bent or missing shower rods
  12. Presence of shower mold from lack of regular housekeeping
  13. Broken blinds or missing curtains

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Walk-through Inspections

To gauge the level of damage or wear and tear present in your rental unit, it’s important to conduct a rental inspection. When the tenancy expires and tenant has moved out from your unit, check and assess for damages. Take photos and record all your findings. There should be an explanation for any repair cost deduction from the security deposit. Provide the tenant a detailed list of these damages. This will also aid the tenant in understanding the reason why the security deposit refund amount is not returned in full.

Owner Responsibility for Unit Maintenance

As a property owner, you bear full responsibility in ensuring you’re strictly adhering to the State laws on rental property maintenance. They must ensure the building structure is safe, habitable and has a proper garbage disposal system. Also, amenities such as running water and heating must be provided. In terms of repairs, you must promptly respond to maintenance requests from the tenants.

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Even if the repair costs from the damages in a rental property can be deducted from the security deposit, there are exceptions. You must be sure that the damage was not caused by your negligence as the owner. For example, a wooden floor has water damage from a leaky roof. If your tenant told you that the roof was leaking, and you did not fix the problem. In a situation like this, it is unfair for the tenant to shoulder the cost of repair. So, if you want to avoid hefty expenses, you must also perform your maintenance duties sufficiently.

Useful Life

Every product has a useful life. This is important to know because as a property owner, you should not charge the tenant the full price of a replacement item. For example, if the hot water heater gets damaged after 5 years and its life expectancy is up to 10 years, the tenant shouldn’t pay the full price. They should only pay 50% of the cost. There’s already been considerable wear and tear over the 5-year period and that should be taken into account in this case.

If you’re curious about the life expectancy of other common household items, click here.

Bottom Line

Learning the difference between normal wear and tear and excessive damage is important. Disputes will inevitably arise upon tenant move out, but the best thing you can do is to document the property's condition. This will help avoid conflicts. Having photo and video proof will make any accumulated property damages obvious to the tenants.

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