Normal Wear and Tear vs Damage

by Cierylene Piernes

Posted on 2019-08-08 20:17:01



Normal wear and tear naturally occur to any property. It is usually caused by several factors such as tenants living in, and/or aging of the property, in other terms depreciation. On the other hand, damages are physical degradation of the property due to negligence or abuse of its occupants.

The normal wear and tear vs damage is still a highly debatable topic when it comes to rental properties. Because normal wear and tear are shouldered by the landlord and damage are to be borne by the tenants occupying the property. When tenants move out, the cost of damages is to be deducted against their security deposit if not fixed by the tenant during move out.

Let’s discuss how normal wear and tear differs from damage to various parts of rental properties.

  • Carpet - gently worn patched carpets with no holes or stains is wear and tear; pet caused damage such as scratched/holed carpets, stained and ripped carpet are obviously damage.
  • Windows- lightly scratched glass and worn, loose hardware is normal wear and tear; broken glass, ripped screen and broken hardware are damages.
  • Walls - cracks and small nail holes are normal wear and tear; too obvious or too many and too big holes in the walls are damaged.
  • Paint - faded paint due to sunlight and minor scuffing from daily use is normal wear and tear; scribbling in painted walls and unauthorized change of wall colors are damaged.
  • Hardwood flooring - fading of flooring due to exposure to sunlight is normal wear and tear; deeply scratched flooring and/or missing hardwood pieces are damages.
  • Tile flooring - dirty grout surrounding the tiles are normal wear and tear; broken pieces or missing tiles are damages.
  • Countertops - scratches and light watermarks are normal wear and tear; burnt areas, chipped countertops, and/or multiple stains are damages.

Hence, a checklist can help a landlord figure out what is normal wear and tear and what is to be considered the damage.

It will also help to check products useful life, for when a  landlord should replace furniture or fixtures on the property. For example, a carpet’s useful life is 5 years, after 5 years it is the landlord's responsibility to replace it for the occupant's safety, not to trip on it.

To help classify which is wear and tear as opposed to damages, let’s quote:

“The easiest way to discern between wear and tear and tenant caused damage is to think of wear and tear as any damage that’s caused by natural forces or damage that’s caused by daily use. Tenant caused damage should be thought of as damage requiring more than routine maintenance to repair. Obviously, this doesn’t include things like a leaky pipe or things that would happen to the property regardless of who the tenant was.”

– Timothy Czekaj, Real Estate Attorney, Czekaj Dusharm LLC


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