Is It Normal Wear and Tear, Or Is It Damage?

One of the most common landlord and tenant disputes comes at the end of the relationship, when tenants move out and want their security or damage deposit returned.

While laws differ by state, in most locales you cannot withhold funds to repair normal wear and tear, but you can withhold funds to repair damage. In general, you can only retain enough money to restore the apartment's original condition, not to upgrade finishes.


Normal Wear and Tear
The term "normal wear and tear" refers to changes in the property's conditions that would be expected in the ordinary course of daily living.

Most states have not legislated the items that fall into this category; it would be impossible to do so because of the wide variety in property inclusions and initial conditions.

You can include some definitions in your lease terms, but the legal document may limit you later.

If damage occurs, one you didn't think to include in the lease, it cannot automatically be factored into the end tabulations.

In general, wear and tear must be assessed on an individual basis in every apartment.


Examples of normal wear and tear include:

  • Scuff marks on floors or minor holes from hanging paintings on walls.
  • Minor dirt on a carpet.
  • Watermarks on the paint in a bathroom.

If the tenant painted the apartment or put up wallpaper, you can use security deposit funds to restore the original color, even if the new paint or paper is in good condition.

Examples of damage include:

  • Gouges in walls or on flooring materials.
  • Urine stains from a pet.
  • Water stains on floors and walls in rooms other than the bathroom. Severe staining in the bathroom may be considered damage as well.

Cleaning

Generally, landlords are expected to clean apartments in preparation for new tenants; most leases call for existing tenants to leave the property "broom clean."

If the tenants leave the apartment extremely dirty, you can use their deposit to pay to have it cleaned.

If tenants leave property behind, you can use their deposit to cover the expenses of removing those items.


Avoid Disputes by Keeping Tenants Informed
The best way to avoid disputes is by having the tenant agree with you before any charges are deducted.

Perform a move-in walkthrough with the tenant when the lease begins, noting any existing defects in the apartment.

Taking photos can help document conditions.

Obtain the tenant's signature to indicate his or her agreement with the assessment of the condition.

You cannot charge the tenant to repair the existing, original defects.

When the tenant leaves, perform a move-out walkthrough using the same checklist.

Any new damage should be noted, and the tenant should sign to indicate agreement.

The form your tenants sign should state that they would be charged to correct those damages.

Use photos to document the move-out condition.

You should also provide the tenant with an itemized list of the repairs required and the cost of each repair.

These amounts must accurately reflect the charges from the repair service, and you should provide the tenants with copies of the receipts.

Tenants who are unhappy with receiving only a partial refund of their deposit may pursue a case in small claims court, but if you've documented the condition of the apartment and the expenses incurred, you are likely to prevail.

Posted on May 20, 2015

Related

The Landlord Tenant Board: What it is and When it is Needed

Many times, there are issues between a landlord and a tenant that need to be resolved but are failed to do so, because both parties have gone too far with their actions, and have retaliated in the... More


How to Create a Residential Lease Agreement

Where there is a landlord, there will also be a tenant, and it is no surprise that these two parties can only work together once there is some sort of agreement, contract or a binding deal in place.... More


The Best Sites for Rental and Lease Agreement Templates

Many landlords find it difficult to write and draft a lease agreement. Since every State has its own general template, it can also be difficult to make sure your lease agreement meets all the criteria... More


Landlord Obligations: The Responsibilities of a Landlord

Becoming a landlord is a major deal and no one can simply get up and think, “well, yes I think I should be a landlord and rent out my flat.” If you are thinking that you would like to be a landlord,... More


The Best Landlord Associations for Landlords to Join

If you’re a landlord and want to manage your business in a better way, you should endeavor to get in touch with those industry experts who have the experience and the skills to help you do it. This is... More


The Best Landlord Forums

Landlords and aspiring landlords, do not become as such, without guidance and advice. There is a lot that goes into being a landlord nowadays; in fact, there is so much to learn that it often confuses... More


The Biggest Landlord Problems and How to Fix Them

Renting out an apartment or a house can become a constant revenue source for landlords, but at the same time, it gives rise to several problems. It is a fact that high standards, a strict lease... More


Landlord Tenant Disputes

If you are currently thinking of becoming a landlord only because it helps you have a constant stream of income, you should think twice. It’s not that you should not consider offering your property... More


Unpaid Rent

When you talk about the most common disputes arising between landlords and tenants, nonpayment of rent has to be there in the list. People rent their properties to earn money, and when a tenant... More


Section 8 Landlord Pros and Cons

If you have ever rented a living space and have had to move many times, you’d already know how difficult it is to find decent, affordable and secure living premises. A person has to deal with the same... More