Landlord’s Guide to Normal Wear and Tear in Rentals

Like any asset, rental properties are bound to depreciate and lose their value over their lifetime. A clear indication of this depreciation is when your tenants start reporting incidents of normal wear and tear in the property or when tenants leave your property not looking as pristine as when you first rented it out. 

This is normal—properties, even when regularly maintained, cannot be free from their materials’ usual wear and tear over time. As a landlord, you must set clear guidelines on what constitutes normal wear and tear and deliberate property damage, as this will determine who bears the cost for repairs and maintenance. 

In this article, we will discuss normal property wear and tear, how it differs from property damage, your and your tenant’s responsibilities, and what you can do as a landlord to protect your interests from property wear and tear or damage.

What is normal wear and tear?

Normal wear and tear is when a property suffers from unavoidable deterioration due to the passage of time and a tenant’s everyday use. When your tenant opens and closes a door, rolls down windows, or carries stuff in and out, your property will inevitably suffer from damages, scratches, and breakages.

Some of the typical types of normal wear and tear that may happen to your property in the course of its use are:

  • Minor scrapes in wall paint
  • Minor wall and floor scratches
  • Peeling wallpapers
  • Chipped wall plasters
  • Cracked paint
  • Stained or dirty grout
  • Broken cords or window rolls
  • Fading of carpets or walls
  • Loose door and cabinet handles
  • Worn or scratched enamel

Wear and tear vs. other types of property damages

As a landlord, you need to be able to differentiate normal wear and tear from major property damage on homes for rent, as this will determine who will be responsible for the repairs on the property. In contrast, major property damage may result from intentional, unintentional, or accidental damage to the property that may have otherwise been avoided and not a result of the passage of time or regular daily use.

Some property damages that may fall under this category include:

  • Burning carpets or wallpapers
  • Major breakage of glass windows or cabinets
  • Clogged toilet and sink due to improper tenant use
  • Severely damaged door and cabinet hinges due to use of force
  • Severely broken floor tiles
  • Missing fixtures

You and your tenant’s responsibilities for wear and tear

It is a landlord’s responsibility to maintain its properties at regular intervals to ensure that the property remains in good condition for use by the tenant and that normal wear and tear is addressed immediately. 

However, in cases where major property damages do not fall within reasonable normal wear and tear, the landlord can ask the tenant to be responsible for the damages, either by repairing them or taking a portion of the tenant’s security deposit for repair compensation.

According to Jerry Han, CMO at PrizeRebel, “The rental property business can be tricky to get into, especially with a significant investment at stake. This is why landlords and tenants must be clear of their responsibilities from the get-go and draft a contract that clearly states each party’s rights and remedies.”

When do you pull from the security deposit?

A security deposit is one of the basic fees paid by a tenant before renting a landlord’s property, usually with 1 to 3 months’ advance rent payment. At the end of the lease term, the landlord must return any unused amount from the security deposit.

But when are you, as a landlord, qualified to pull from a tenant’s security deposit?

Depending on local laws and regulations, a landlord can pull from a tenant’s security deposit when damages are done to the property beyond normal wear and tear—including intentional and unintentional property damages.

How to properly maintain a rental unit as a landlord

Make sure that contractual terms are clear

There’s a lot of gray area regarding what qualifies as normal wear and tear. This can depend on local laws and regulations, what the tenant and landlord view as normal wear and tear, and the extent of damage.

Before finalizing the rental contract, ensure you and your tenant are clear about all its terms, especially the security deposit amount. 

Tim White, Founder of milepro, says, “Make sure to outline and detail in the contract, as much as possible, what constitutes normal wear and tear and clarify that any damages beyond it shall be pulled out of the tenant’s security deposit.”

Take photos before your tenants move in

To help resolve future disputes, you must keep proper documentation of the state of your property before your tenants move in, especially existing wear and tear or damages. This can help clearly show who is responsible for damages reported by the tenant.

Phil Strazzulla, Founder of SelectSoftware Reviews, says, “You can also create a checklist of all the aspects and state of your property, supported by photos and the date of inspection, before and after a tenant moves in so you have proper and accurate documentation on the deductions you can make from the tenant’s security deposit.”

Regular maintenance is a must

As a landlord, you are responsible for ensuring that the property is ready and in good condition for the tenant to use. This includes:

  • Checking for leaks
  • Replacement of air filters
  • Check fire extinguishers
  • Check for pests and bugs
  • Conduct smoke and carbon monoxide detector tests
  • Check for mold growth, especially in bathrooms
  • Inspect potentially clogged gutters

According to Roman Zrazhevskiy, Founder & CEO of MIRA Safety, “As the landlord, you must not wait for issues to arise in the property and ensure that regular maintenance inspections are made to avoid potential issues from normal wear and tear.” He adds, “Waiting for ‘something’ to happen can put your property at risk of major damage, which could have otherwise been avoided if it was addressed promptly in the first place.”

Communicate with tenants properly

Maintaining healthy, open communication means that you and your tenants are aware of each other’s responsibilities on the use and maintenance of the property and that any potential issue is communicated and addressed immediately. 

Sturgeon Christie, CEO at Second Skin Audio, says, “Landlords who are not regularly and openly communicating with their tenants are most likely to find more hidden damages in their property by the end of the lease term—even beyond what their tenant’s security deposit can cover.”

Conclusion

Normal wear and tear are unavoidable in managing a rental property, and a landlord must address these problems promptly or avoid them through regular maintenance and inspections.

Ensuring your property is well-kept and regularly maintained improves the business relationship between you and your tenants and helps your property last longer. 

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