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What Exactly is “Normal Wear and Tear”? 

What Exactly is “Normal Wear and Tear”? 

Keeping a rental property in good condition is a year-round task. From regular property inspections to seasonal maintenance, these tasks can help a landlord keep their investment protected and profitable. 

As a landlord, you should understand the difference between normal wear and tear and tenant-caused damages. Understanding this concept will not only help you establish fair expectations but also avoid most security deposit disputes. 

At Real Property Management Talent we want to help a landlord foster long-lasting relationships with their tenants. That is why we’ve written this guide. Keep reading to learn more about normal wear and tear and how to prevent property damage!

What Is Normal Wear and Tear?

Wear and tear is a perfectly normal aspect of renting out your house. Normal wear and tear refers to the gradual deterioration of a rental property that occurs due to regular, everyday use. Examples of wear and tear include the following:

Faded Paint and Wallpaper

Over time, exposure to sunlight and everyday living can cause paint to fade and wallpaper to peel from the walls. These signs of deterioration are typically found in areas with regular use, such as bedrooms, living rooms, and even the kitchen.

Carpet Wear

Adding carpets to rental properties can be a great investment. However, carpets in high-traffic areas, such as entryways and living rooms, will start showing signs of wear and tear as time goes on. This can include pile compression, stains, or even discoloration.

a black and red carpet steamer machine on a grey carpet in a tenant's household

Scuff Marks

It’s normal to find scuff marks on walls and floors. These can be caused by anything from regular cleaning to moving furniture. Thankfully, there are steps a landlord can take to remove scuff marks from floors and ceilings. 

Worn-Out Flooring

Even resistant flooring materials, such as hardwood or vinyl, will show signs of deterioration over time. Signs of wear such as scratches, scuffs, and discoloration are typically caused by everyday living. Over time, you’ll need to make replacements, so it’s best to learn the lifespan of the materials used.

Appliance Deterioration

Just like in your own home, the appliances on your rental will start showing signs of wear over time. After all, things such as refrigerators, stoves, and dishwashers, are used every day. So, it’s normal to find scratches or dings on them, and even for them to break down.

Differentiating Between Wear and Tear and Excessive Damage

Landlords must learn to distinguish between normal wear and tear and damage caused by negligence, misuse, or intentional actions by tenants. This can significantly prevent security deposit disputes and ensure that renters keep their rentals in good condition. Examples of tenant-caused damage include:

  • Excessive stains
  • Burns 
  • Holes in walls bigger than typical nail holes 
  • Broken or damaged fixtures
  • Pet-related damage, such as scratched or chewed-up baseboards
  • Broken windows
  • Clogged or damaged toilets
  • Cracked tiles
  • Damage drywalls
  • Unapproved paint or wallpaper on walls

chipped and broken blue and white tiles showing deteriorated condition

Tips for Preventing Tenant-Caused Property Damage

A tenant can cause damage to the dwelling that goes beyond normal tear and wear. Luckily, a landlord can prevent most of it by doing the following: 

Screen Tenants Thoroughly

Tenant screening is a must for landlords. Thescreening process should include extensive background, credit, and rental history checks, as well as contacting references and former landlords. This will help the landlord find responsible a tenant more likely to properly care for their rental.

Have a Detailed Lease Agreement

A solid lease agreement goes a long way in keeping your real estate investment protected. Make sure that your rental agreement clearly outlines your expectations regarding property maintenance, acceptable use of the appliances, and prohibited activities. By defining the tenant’s responsibilities regarding property maintenance, you can prevent not only damage to the premises but security deposit disputes too.

Additionally, it’s important that your written lease agreement clearly outlines pet policies. If you’re allowing pets into your rental, establishing clear guidelines regarding property maintenance can prevent most pet-related damage. Finally, clearly outline, in a written notice, the conditions under which security deposit deductions will be made, such as excessive damage, unpaid rent, or cleaning fees. This will prevent most security deposit disputes. 

Conduct Regular Property Inspections

The best way to ensure that your rental premises remain in good condition throughout the tenancy is to inspect it yourself. Regular property inspections can help you, as the landlord, identify and address maintenance issues promptly and ensure that the tenant is complying with the terms of the written agreement and using the property for its intended use. Additionally, a landlord must conduct and document move-in and move-out inspections.

home inspector holding a clipboard with an inspection plan

Educate Your Tenant

Everyone has different cleanliness and maintenance standards. To ensure you’re both on the same page, as the landlord, you can provide your tenant with a checklist explaining how to properly care for your property. This can include any routine maintenance tasks, such as changing air filters, proper waste disposal, or a guide on what to do in emergencies.

Set Clear Maintenance Expectations

Property maintenance is a shared responsibility between landlords and tenants. Some tasks, such as ensuring that the property is structurally safe, will fall on you as the landlord. But other day-to-day tasks, such as regular cleaning will fall on your tenant.

The best way to avoid misunderstandings and ensure that your property is properly cared for is to communicate the tenant’s maintenance responsibilities. Establishing clear expectations from the beginning can help prevent most neglect-related damages.

Keep Open Lines of Communication

Maintaining open communication can not only improve the relationship with your tenant but also prevent emergency repairs. Regularly checking in to inquire about any maintenance concerns or needed repairs can significantly decrease the likelihood of emergencies. Plus, being an attentive landlord will help you keep your renters happy!

Bottom Line

Landlords are generally responsible for covering the costs associated with normal wear and tear. That’s why you must know how to differentiate between tenant-caused damages and deterioration from everyday living. Need help maintaining and managing your rentals? Contact Real Property Management Talent today! With over 30 years of experience, we know how to keep your rental property flourishing.

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