Do you have disagreements over ‘normal wear and tear’ with your tenants?
The concept of normal wear and tear often leads to disputes between landlords and tenants. These happen because people have different interpretations of this idea based on protecting their interests.
The hot debates stem from financial responsibilities. Whenever there's wear and tear in a property, you need some money to fix or replace the affected components. ‘Normal wear and tear’ means that the tenants aren’t financially responsible for this normal aging process.
Now we will be going over the essentials of recognizing normal wear and tear. Read on to learn about the thin line between tenant damages and normal wear and tear. Plus, you'll learn how you can evaluate the differences in damages and deterioration of a rental property.
The Starting Point: Normal Wear and Tear
You can find a host of definitions that describe normal wear and tear. Most of these explanations derive from official guidelines and laws. While the particular wording differs between sources, expected aging from daily use is a common idea.
The damage isn’t classified as normal wear and tear whenever the reason is due to a tenant’s negligent and careless behavior. In these cases, the tenant has to pay for the associated repair expenses.
Faced with the normal deterioration of things, tenants shouldn’t worry about their role in these processes. It’s the landlord’s responsibility to conduct necessary upkeep and repairs that help preserve the value of the rental property.
Guide: Normal Wear and Tear vs. Tenant Damage
We will now look at practical examples of the differences between ‘normal wear and tear’ and tenant-induced damage. As real-life scenarios may have significant gray areas, the following examples serve as general explanations.
W&T: Some scratches on the surface, watermarks.
Damage: Burnt or chipped areas, extensive staining.
W&T: Faded carpets, some areas have worn thin, patchy look.
Damage: Cigarette burns, some parts of the carpet have ripped, gaping holes, stains, pet urine.
W&T: Faded and dusty shades, minor stains.
Damage: Major stains, parts of the lampshade are torn or burnt, the shades are missing.
W&T: Normal fading, minor tears here and there.
Damage: Scribbles or drawings on the wallpaper, unapproved wallpaper.
W&T: Tiles have become dull or loose, rusty shower rod, scratches on sink, toilet and bathtub enamel, darkened spots in the mirror.
Damage: Mirror has makeup or personal care product stains, clogged drains due to tenant negligence, toilet, sink and bathtub enamel have parts that are completely broken, cracked or missing bathroom tiles, bent or removed shower rod.
W&T: Lost finish and fading due to sunlight exposure and foot traffic.
Damage: Some parts of the floor are missing, pet urine or water stains, prominent scratches.
W&T: Lightly scratched glass, dusty look.
Damage: Deep scratches, broken glass, and torn screens.
W&T: Doors that are harder to close due to higher humidity levels.
Damage: Broken doors, components of the door have gone missing, a door that is off its hinges.
Inspection Helps Uncover Damage
Inspections play a significant role in finding the differences between 'normal wear and tear' and damages. The process starts with move-in inspections. You should do a walkthrough of your property and collect visual evidence of its condition.
When you have the evidence, it’s much harder to dispute damages that are not normal wear and tear. Additionally, it wouldn’t hurt to create an overview of existing damages in the rental unit before the tenant moves in.
As both sides of the lease agreement agree on the property’s conditions, you can rest assured that any documented and serious damage can be readily deducted from the security deposit. The visual evidence, together with the prior mutual agreement, works in your favor.
During the move-out inspection, you should take pictures or record video of any significant damages that you spot on the premises. You can then compare these against the list of prior damages and visuals captured during the move-in inspection.
When Are Landlord's Responsible for Damage?
Remember that not all damages are going to be the responsibility of your tenants. You have the responsibility to maintain the rental property, including necessary repairs and adherence to building codes.
There are situations in which the landlord’s negligence of property maintenance means that the damages cannot be deducted from the renter’s security deposit. For instance, when neglected piping issues cause flooding, it’s not the tenant’s responsibility to cover the associated expenses.
Similarly, your rental property’s foundation could be failing, but you won’t take the necessary steps to fix it. Sooner or later, the foundation problems will lead to damage like cracked walls and broken tiles. Your tenant is not responsible for the consequent damages.
What Purpose Does 'Useful Life' Serve?
Both wear and tear and direct damage affect various components of your rental unit, including kitchen appliances and other items. When your tenant ruins some of these items, only if they're new can you charge the full cost.
Here is an example. Say your tenant destroys an A/C unit that has a useful life of 10 years. When that A/C unit is already five years old, you can only charge 50% of the replacement expense.
You can find the list for the useful life of various items in the HUD info materials.
In a Nutshell: What Is Normal Wear and Tear?
'Normal wear and tear' covers damage due to regular, day-to-day use of your rental property. You can’t deduct normal wear and tear expenses from your tenant’s security deposit. You can only use the deposit to cover the costs of damages that result from negligence and irresponsible behavior.