What Exactly is “Normal Wear and Tear”?

All things undergo wear and tear. The clothes on your back, the laptop you’re using, even the shoes that take you from point A to B. So it comes as no surprise that even rental properties are subject to normal wear and tear, too.

How long have you been using your laptop? How many miles have you covered using your running shoes? How many years have you been living in your house? Naturally, signs of aging will manifest on the gadget, shoes and home.

The same could be said for a rental property, which is why we at Leenan Properties have put together this article and the below video. Describing how landlords can spot and manage normal wear and tear versus real damage.

Normal Wear and Tear in the Rental Property

One can’t expect that a rental home in year 1 will still look the same in year 10. The property would have undergone several upgrades by then. The furnishings would have been fixed and replaced over a decade of serving different tenants.

Normal wear and tear is the damage that occurs naturally due to the passage of time. Depreciation of furnishings and appliances is expected over time due to frequent usage. You can’t assign the resulting damages entirely to the tenant. To do so would be unfair. Hence, the landlord needs to take time-induced wear and tear into account before deducting for damages.

Normal Wear and Tear Examples:

  • A tenant who has stayed for 5 years in your property has left a worn-down carpet. Will you take out the cost of a new carpet from their security deposit? That would be an unreasonable decision. Plush carpets usually last for 5 years. Beyond that, the carpet is bound to undergo aging.

  • After a renter has moved out, you notice that the paint on the wall has become dull and faded. It was a bright blue shade 5 years ago. Should you split the cost of repainting with the renter? You shouldn’t. Properties should be repainted every 5-6 years and that expense should be taken from a landlord’s budget.

carpet wear and tear

Now, while managing your rental home, you might see signs of clear neglect. Should this fall under the normal wear and tear definition? As a landlord, you must have an inkling of how excessive damage is defined.

Excessive Damage in the Rental Property

Upon one of your scheduled property inspections, you detect large holes in your walls. Will you pay for the repair? Excessive damages lead to the property’s devaluation. It can ruin the rental home.

In this case, the neglectful tenant must bear the costs of the repair/replacement of furnishings subjected to excessive damage. In fact, the landlord has reasonable grounds to evict the tenant. Leases often stipulate that a tenant must reasonably take care of the property.

Excessive Damage Examples:

  • During your periodic property inspection, you come across your 6-month old carpet covered with multiple stains, holes and burns. Is it proper to ask the tenant to pay for the replacement? Can you deduct the amount of a new carpet from the tenant’s security deposit? Yes, since this is considered as excess damage considering that the carpet has been recently purchased.

  • Your renter has moved out and left a broken window. Can you charge the cost of repair to the renter? In this situation, yes, since a broken window falls under excessive damage to the rental property.

broken window

Landlords would certainly benefit from learning the difference between normal wear and tear versus excessive damage. This would help them avoid repair and replacement spending caused by a tenant’s neglect. Similarly, it would also keep them from assigning the same costs to the tenant when the damage is due to normal wear and tear.

Normal Wear and Tear vs. Excessive Damage

Signs to watch out for under normal wear and tear:

  • The appearance of tiny cracks on the wall

  • Faded paint

  • Slightly torn wallpaper

  • Scrapes and dents of countertops or cabinets

  • Dirty mirror

  • Slightly torn shower curtains

  • Loose grouting

Signs to watch out for under excessive damage:

  • Heavy scrapes on the floors

  • Carpet burns and stains

  • Broken doors and windows

  • Gaping holes on the walls

  • Missing bathroom tiles

  • Existence of shower mold

  • Missing shower rods

Now that you’ve been familiarized with normal wear and tear and excessive damage, what can be done to manage it? Well, there are two main ways:

Conducting Walk Through Inspections

To avoid being caught unaware, it’s essential to perform regular property inspections. You’ll notice when some items needed to be repaired and replaced due to normal wear and tear. You’ll also be able to spot if there’s excessive damage occurring in your rental property.

Spend time documenting all areas of the unit, including the furnishings, before a tenant moves in. This can be evidence if a tenant files for a lawsuit when being evicted. It will also support your security deposit deduction when the damages are heavy.

Performing Preventive Property Maintenance

To delay the normal wear and tear, taking care of your furnishings and appliances is encouraged. This way, you’re bound to spend less on heavy-duty repairs. You would also keep yourself from draining your pockets on expensive replacement items.

appliance maintenance

Here are other ideas to keep up with the maintenance of the property:

  • Engage the services of professional cleaners

    Annual or bi-annual professional cleaning is recommended. Professional cleaners can deep clean areas that are rarely covered by normal cleaning. They can also help eliminate mold presence and detect the beginnings of a pest infestation.

  • Steam-clean the carpets

    Performing steam cleaning can make the carpets look bright and new. This method of preservation delays normal wear and tear. It makes the property home look attractive.

  • Add a fresh coat of paint

    Wall paint can turn dull after a few years. Adding a fresh coat now and then can keep it from looking lifeless. Fresh paint attracts the eye and makes the rental unit more inviting, warm and appealing.

Bottom Line

As a landlord, you’ll be encountering plenty of normal wear and tear and excessive damage. It’s essential you know how to categorize each one. This way, you’ll know who’ll be paying for specific damage in the rental unit.

If you need a professional property manager in Regina, contact Leenan Property Management at 306-994-5475. For more information, visit their website at www.leenanproperties.com.