Defining Normal Wear and Tear on a Rental Property

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A rental property is a great investment, and can be a good source of income. As a landlord you can expect some signs of wear and tear. However, it is important to distinguish this normal wear and tear from considerable damage, which will need repairs. In cases of actual damage, the security deposit paid by the tenant can be used by the landlord for the repairs.

Normal Wear and Tear

Fading paint is inevitable, even when the tenant is very conscientious and takes good care of the property. A few small holes on the wall from hanging pictures can also be considered normal wear and tear.

Carpets may wear out due to constant use, and also show some discoloration. Dust and dirt in some amounts is normal in most properties.

Dirty blinds and curtains that have faded with use are also part of normal wear and tear that occurs with time. Blind pulls or strings may also be worn or frayed due to constant use.

Plumbing that needs to be fixed is the landlord’s responsibility. Mold that grows in damp areas as a result of broken pipes can also be considered normal wear and tear, if the tenant notified the landlord of the same, and the landlord was not prompt in initiating repairs.

Actual Damage

The following conditions can be defined as actual damage, and the landlord can use part of the security deposit or the entire amount to perform repairs on the property.

Stripped paint, markings on the wall and torn wallpaper are not part of normal wear and tear. Too many holes in the wall can also be considered actual damage.

Torn carpets also constitute permanent damage, as do stains, burns and blotches on carpets. Deep scratches on wood floors is also considered actual damage.

Stains and odors on the floor or carpet because of pets are also considered damage, as they can be quite time consuming to remove.

Though light bulbs that do not work anymore are part of normal wear and tear, broken fixtures and furniture can be used to claim for damage compensation.

Doors or windows that are broken, or have cracks on them constitute permanent damage that is intentional or because of careless use.

Though some dust is normal in any living space, an excessive amount of dirt, grime and dust in a dwelling is considered damaging. Sometimes such dirty surroundings may require expensive professional cleaning.

If a tenant has pets, it is their responsibility to ensure that the animals are kept healthy and free of parasites. Some pets can leave behind a flea infestation that requires professional treatment and removal.

In the kitchen, the stove, oven and refrigerator are used on a daily basis and one can expect some signs of usage. However, broken compartments in the refrigerator or damaged burners on the stove are the result of negligence or carelessness and constitute actual damage. All the appliances must be in good working condition. The oven must also be working well and kept clean.

In the bathroom, the formation of mildew to an extent that requires professional treatment is considered damage. The pipes must be working well, without any drainage problems that could be the result of improper use.

6 Responses to “Defining Normal Wear and Tear on a Rental Property”

  1. April 08, 2013 at 12:09 am, Julie said:

    I have been a landlord of one property since June 2009. Only one tenant has resided since I moved out of the townhouse and rented it out. Last year the tenant had come to me reporting that the kitchen faucet had broken. They were willing to install it if I paid for the new faucet. The new faucet, over a course of about 6-8 months, leaked down into the cabinet and soaked into the hardwood flooring, causing damage to the floors such that part has to be pulled up and replaced.

    My question is: Since the tenants installed the faucet, which ultimately leaked and went unnoticed for so long to cause the floor damage – can I deduct for the repairs of the faucet and flooring from their security deposit?


  2. May 29, 2013 at 5:29 pm, Roxana said:

    I have now 4 month that I moved out from Carmel Creek Apts. and Townhouses, the lease says “The security deposit will be sent to the Tenant within 45 days after lease finish” and when I gave the apartment the manager (who was the one received)said the same, because the apartment was gave in same conditions or cleaner than I received.

    I have been calling to the offices which they call Corporate SS Management, and every time they ask me my name, telephone number and the address of the unit left and say they will call me back, they say: “They don’t know about it” and in the lease office of the apartments say: “They are waiting for the order of the Corporate”, so, what can I do then? Does anybody can tell me?, I have proof of everything, they have many irregularities starting with the lease and other documents.

    Thank you for the answer.


    • November 16, 2016 at 12:33 pm, Ak Tiamat el Bey said:

      > Send out a demand letter stating the law and what you demand for them to do. Include everyone involved. Give them 10 days to respond failure to do so will result in a lien being placed against all real and personal property. Or you can even use the default judgment which is failure to respond to small claims court. Send it certified mail.


  3. November 30, 2013 at 3:35 am, Newlyn said:

    The definition of normal wear and tear is somewhat ambiguous. It’s not really black and white. The best way to define normal wear and tear is to make sure you take pictures of the property before you move in and after you move out. If the wear and tear is excessive, which if you can not clean and restore back to premove in conditions, in my opinion, that is actual damage.

    In response to Roxana – you should definitely follow up with security deposit. I presume your former apartment is located in California, so legally, the landlord or property manager must return your deposit within 21 days along with a receipt of any deductions taken from your security deposit.


  4. November 30, 2016 at 11:17 am, Pat Moore said:

    I been living in a apt for 11 year paid rent on time. Left apt in good standing but the cabinet door in kitchen was broke for hinge, its been fixed before. I left the apt in good standards otherwise, clean cabinet, fridge, stove, fix holes from pictures. Also, I gave notice in July that I would be moving end of Oct. even though my lease was ending the end of Nov. Can they take all of my deposit termination fee, 1 month rent, and damage Assessment.


  5. January 15, 2017 at 5:35 pm, Linda said:

    One of my dual paned windows no longer holds itself open. There are springs inside the tracks on either side. One day I opened the window and heard a snap but the window still stayed open on its own. About two weeks later I heard the other side snap as I was opening the window. The lower half of the window is so heavy without the springs and I have taken to putting a chair leg between the bottom slot and top of window to hold it open. God forbid the thing crashed to the floor. I've told the landlord about this for over a years but he's done nothing yet.

    A window guy came to the property to replace a window in another apt. I had him check mine and he told me they have springs in the sides. The windows were installed around Y 2 k by the old owner.

    I have no idea if I'm responsible for the springs, for that matter I'm wondering if the whole lower half will have to be replaced. Windows aren't cheap. I am looking to move after 9 years and would hate to see the owner make me pay for a new custom sized window.


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