Normal Wear and Tear Cory Real Estate Services

For landlords, normal wear and tear is a term they must become familiar with when discussing their rental property business. “Normal wear and tear” refers to the decline or depreciation of property, furnishings, or appliances in your unit. These damages are typically not borne out of neglect or abuse by the residents. 

Fixing wear and tear damages is the landlord’s responsibility. Therefore, it’s important to be able to tell the difference and categorize between tenant-caused property damage and reasonable wear and tear. This can prove to be challenging though.

This article will help you evaluate what falls under normal wear and tear and what does not.

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What is normal wear and tear?

Wear and tear is often described as the natural deterioration of a property from continuous use over time. The more frequent areas and items in your home are occupied and utilized daily, the more they wear out. Floor tiles, for example, can lose their shine, and couches look worn out from being used frequently. The longer your tenant stays, the more normal wear and tear can be predicted to occur.

Examples of wear and tear

  1. Faded paint on the walls
  2. Sticky doors resulting from humidity
  3. The appearance of torn wallpaper
  4. Dull looking floors
  5. Loose grouting of bathroom tiles
  6. Partial clogging resulting from aging pipes 

What is property damage?

Excessive property damage can lead to your rental home losing its value and function due to neglect or abuse. For example, when a tenant moves out and you discover an unhinged door, you can’t chalk that up to normal wear and tear. This commonly occurs outside of ordinary use and may have resulted from an intentional action attributed to a form of abuse or neglect. Landlords can also be guilty of neglect in property maintenance. 

Examples of excessive damage

  1. Severely damaged windows
  2. Clogged toilets resulting from improper usage
  3. Heavy carpet stains
  4. Doors ripped from hinges
  5. Chipped enamel of sink/ bathtub
  6. Smashed windowpanes

Now, it’s important to remember that landlords can also be guilty of negligence and thus be responsible to cover the damages found in the property. Some of these are due to foundation issues and lead to sloping floors or cracked walls. Irregular maintenance can also result in damages to HVAC systems and plumbing. 

Landlords have the responsibility to make their rental properties habitable for the tenants. The unit must be functional, clean, safe, and adhere to the building and health code standards.

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Using security deposits to cover property damage

Security deposits are advanced funds that tenants leave in the hands of the landlord. It acts as protection in case of property damages or loss of income that the renter instigated. Repairing the damages that resulted from normal wear and tear cannot be taken from the security deposit though. 

The cost of fixing or replacement is assumed by the landlord. Only if the damage is due to a tenant’s negligent act or abusive behavior can the repair be deducted from the security deposit. This is commonly where tenant and landlord disputes originate.

Documenting property damage

It’s advisable to prepare a landlord checklist for move-in and move-out inspection. Monitoring damages with the use of photos and videos can reduce disagreements. You can even talk to the tenant about the level of maintenance you expect in your rental. You can address their questions and document the state of the rental condition prior to move-in and after the move-out. This way it’s far easier to do a comparison and eliminate the existing damages from the equation. 

You can then list down the damages that you find while the unit was rented. While listing down the specifics, it’s beneficial to include photos for a quick reference. Then create an itemized list and repair estimates. Damages that don’t point to wear and tear can be deductible from the security deposit. Just remember to furnish the tenant with a copy of the listed damages and repair costs. 

Preventing damage by screening tenants

Instead of facing potential landmines for conflict, we can get to the root of the problem by starting with screening your tenants. The good ones will see to it that property issues are reported while it’s manageable and less costly. They also reasonably maintain your property. This can reduce repair costs so the security deposit can be returned in full. Thus, it’s a win-win situation for you and the renter.

Performing a detailed background check of your prospects can protect you from excessive damage in your rental property. You’ll only be dealing with tenants who will work with you to keep your unit in great condition. They will be more responsible and intentional as residents in your rental space.

Tenant screening is an effective method to gauge the sense of responsibility of a potential tenant. You can find out a lot of things based on the tenant’s rental history. Be wary if a tenant already has an eviction record. This is a red flag that can alert you on how someone will act as a renter.

 Another method is to call up references and ask the former landlords about the prospect’s behavior. If they acted responsibly in previous rentals, then there’s a good chance they’ll also behave the same way in your rental space. Check for criminal background. You want to avoid your unit being used for illegal activity and the stress that comes with it.

Properly screen your tenants to prevent property damage

Responsibilities of landlords and tenants

Outlining each of the parties’ responsibilities helps to reduce rising conflicts. A leasing agreement with clear-cut policies is a wonderfully written guide. Taking care of the property should be a shared responsibility. If only a landlord strives to maintain the unit, then damages can still continue. If only a renter oversees the maintenance, then damages can still happen. This must be a team effort.

 A good tenant will report any issues no matter how small, and a good landlord will be responsive. Implementing a good maintenance program is less costly in the end even if the property is subjected to normal wear and tear. Items can still last for a long time making it cost-effective for the landlord to manage the rental.

 If you would like more assistance regarding tenant screening, inspections, documenting the condition of your property, or other aspects of property management, consider contacting Cory Real Estate Services today!

Posted by Justin Cory on
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