What Damages Do I Have to Pay For?

Heavily Damaged Apartment

No matter where you live or how careful you are, you’re bound to encounter property damage eventually. As a tenant, what damages will you have to pay for? The answer depends on your exact situation, but there are a few things everybody should know about dealing with dinged apartments:

Wear and Tear

As a tenant, you are not expected to pay for any standard wear and tear incurred during your residence. Also called “unavoidable deterioration,” wear and tear is a term used to describe the natural carpet, floor, wall, and fixture damages that occur over time. Chances are, the longer you live somewhere, the more wear and tear it will have.

In many cases, people have a hard time agreeing on what constitutes wear and tear. Technically, wear and tear has a slightly different definition in every state, as they all have their own version of the Landlord and Tenant Act. Nonetheless, wear and tear typically covers things like faded or chipped paint and stains in sinks or tubs, as long as the landlord is aware of their cause. In your lease agreement, it should clearly state that you, the tenant, will not be responsible for any structural repairs, defects, or weaknesses that are the result of inadequate design, materials, or workmanship.

Lease Agreement

Take the time to thoroughly review your lease agreement. For instance, your agreement may state that you are not allowed to paint the walls any bright colors. If this is the case, and you still decide to paint your walls, then you will be responsible for painting them back to a neutral color or paying a fee. There are several rules like this one that could be outlined in your lease agreement.

Landlord and Tenant Act

As stated earlier, it’s important to read the Landlord and Tenant Act specific to your state. This is the best way to accurately learn all of your tenant rights and responsibilities, including the damages you will and won’t be expected to cover. Damages should generally be the same for each state. Still, it’s a good idea to double check.

Clutter Left Behind

Believe it or not, your landlord can fine you for leaving any furniture or belongings in the apartment after your scheduled move out date. If it’s going to cost them time and/or money to remove, they have the right to charge you for it. To avoid getting stuck with unnecessary fees, be sure to give the entire unit a good cleaning before moving out. Take all of your clutter with you. A good rule of thumb is to leave your apartment as clean as or cleaner than it was when you first moved in.

Cracked Tiles

Unfortunately, tenants are almost always held accountable for any cracked bathroom or kitchen tiles. If you discover a cracked tile in your apartment, have it fixed right away. Don’t put it off until move out day. In fact, whenever you discover any kind of damage, notify your landlord as soon as possible, and deal with the issue before it becomes a bigger problem later on.


Typically, you will not be fined for any holes created by nails. However, landlords are legally entitled to charge their tenants for hole repairs, should they feel like doing so. Lease agreements sometimes specify that tenants are not allowed to hang anything on the walls, so be sure to look yours over before drilling or hammering anything. Obviously, bigger holes are more likely to cost you. These can be caused by several things, such as installing or removing a flat-screen TV mount. If you decide to mount a TV on the wall, plan to have the holes patched up when you take it down. Doing it yourself or finding someone to do it for you will often cost less than paying a landlord to do it.


As a tenant, you’ll understandably be responsible for burn damages. These range from cigarette burns in the carpet to burn marks created by pots and pans on the counter. This rule is fixed because the burned objects in an apartment often need to be replaced entirely before the landlord can rent to a new tenant.


Some landlords will allow their tenants to paint their apartments any color they want. Most property owners will at least allow you to use neutral or pale colors, but some won’t allow paint of any kind. In my last apartment, I was told I could paint the walls any color as long as I repainted them beige before moving out. Failing to comply with your building’s painting rules could mean losing your security deposit or being charged for damages, as it can be quite costly to have walls painted.


You will be fined if you break any of the appliances that came with your rental unit, or even part of an appliance, such as a shelf, knob, or light fixture. However, if an appliance stops working and you are not the cause of the breakdown, your landlord will be responsible for replacing it.

Pet Damage

Pet Damages

Some buildings allow pets, and some don’t. Either way, pet-related damages are always the tenant’s responsibility. These can include scratches, permanent pet stains, and unpleasant odors.

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