Normal wear & tear

Landlords expect that their rental units will receive Normal wear and tear during the course of an occupancy by a tenant. They prepare for this in their maintenance budget. When a tenant vacates a rental unit and the final walk through has been completed the landlord will make arrangements to have the unit freshened up for the new tenants. The current tenants can move on, expecting that they will be receiving a refund of their security deposit within the month, all well and good. But what happens if there is damage to the rental. What happens then? To answer that, we must first define “normal wear and tear”.

NORMAL WEAR AND TEAR:normal wear and tear

Normal wear and tear can be defined as the natural deterioration of the rental that occurs during normal conditions. Maintenance & Repairs Carpet and tile will wear with age and have patterns of travel, indentations will be visible where furniture has sat. Paint will fade on the walls, there may be minor pin holes where pictures have hung, there may be minor scuff marks on woodwork where perhaps a door did not close properly. Worn hinges on doors , worn out locks or blown out light bulbs would be considered normal wear and tear. A breakdown in plumbing or electrical systems would be considered “normal wear and tear” provided that the tenant did nothing to damage these systems . The same would be true for the operation of any and all appliances, dishwashers, refrigerators and stove. If a top burner has burnt out on the stove or the refrigerator has lost its Freon, that would be considered normal wear and tear. If the rental is furnished and has blinds and curtains as well, the condition of all these items will be taken into consideration. Have the curtains or the upholstery on the couch faded or worn? A tenant cannot be charged for items that come under the heading of “Normal wear and tear”. It should say so in the lease, but the law will not allow these charges to the tenant. The tenants Security Deposit should be returned in full. What If the tenant is responsible for damages?
Damage can be defined as loss or harm to property caused by excessive abuse or misuse. Therefore, small pin holes in the walls may be excusable but it is not ok to slam a fist thru a door or wall in a fit of rage. Painting the walls any color other than what the landlord had in the unit without written permission from the landlord or pasting/sticking decals on the windows, doors and walls is damage. Tears, spills or pet stains on carpet are damage as they could have been avoided or cleaned. Broken or cracked windows, doors or trim is considered damage.
Other items considered as damage:

  • Broken or missing blinds.
  • Broken or missing shelves or compartments in the refrigerator or other appliances.
  • Dirty items such as stove, oven or refrigerator, unclean bathrooms and dirty floors.
  • Flea infestation
  • Torn blinds or curtains
  • Broken or missing furniture, if the rental is furnished.
  • Rubbish left behind, not properly disposed of, inside the unit as well as outside.
  • Smoke damage from burning candles or smokers in the unit.

These are a few of the items a landlord may consider when accessing damage fees to the tenant. These fees can be deducted from the tenants Security Deposit. If damages are in excess of the amount of the Security Deposit, the landlord may bring an action in  Small Claims Court for any deficiency. If the tenant has done everything possible to live up to the content of the lease and believes that he/she has left the rental is as good condition as when they moved in, then the tenant can demand that the landlord return the Security Deposit, in writing of course. Failing return from the landlord, the tenant may bring an action in small claims court against the landlord. This is where your “Move in Inspection” is going to go to work for you, being either the tenant or the landlord. Do not be mislead. Have everything in writing and documented. For more on the subject of “Moving In”, “Moving out”, and “ Security Deposits”, visit other pages of this website.