When tenants move out, it’s standard practice to conduct a walk-through of the rental property, checking for damages. Then, all necessary repairs are made, with the cost typically taken out of the tenant’s security deposit. It’s generally understood that tenants are not responsible for any ordinary wear and tear—this is a cost of doing business, covered by the property owner.
The standard definition of “ordinary wear and tear” in most states is deterioration or damage to the property expected to occur with normal usage. However, it’s often a judgment call. What about crayon marks, carpet damages or nail holes?
Ordinary wear and tear generally applies to items like flooring, paint and woodwork. For example, carpeting has a set useful life. If carpet needs to be replaced after a tenant lives in your rental property for five years, that’s likely going to fall under “ordinary wear and tear.” However, a one-year tenant who damages brand-new carpet would be liable for those damages.
Minor indentations on walls are normal; crayon marks, nail holes and gouges are not. Cracks in old tile are normal; broken and chipped new tiles are beyond normal wear and tear. If a tenant breaks a refrigerator drawer or the knobs on the stove, it’s considered damage, not normal wear and tear. Damage from a pet chewing on baseboards is certainly not normal.
Tenants must also return the property to the condition it was in when they moved in. If a tenant leaves dirt and grime behind, the landlord may have the rental unit cleaned and deduct the fee from the security deposit.
Be sure to be thorough and specific when noting damages on your move-out inspection sheet. Take photos or videos and send tenants a detailed list of any charges. Keep all receipts for cleaning, repairs or replacement.