Normal Wear and Tear vs Property Damage

Normal Wear and Tear vs Property Damage

What is Normal Wear and Tear?

Normal wear and tear refers to the inevitable and natural deterioration that occurs over time in rental units due to aging and everyday use. Carpets get walked on, paint fades from the sun, and things get worn out. 

That's no fault of the tenant, and it's an expected part of the business when owning and operating rental property.

Examples of Normal Wear and Tear

  • Fading or discoloration of paint or wallpaper from sunlight exposure

  • Minor scuffs, dings, or scratches on walls from everyday use

  • Worn carpet

  • Scuff marks on the flooring

What is Property Damage?

Contrarily, property damage involves harm to the rental unit due to accidents, abuse, or extreme negligence by the tenant. This includes any alterations that affect the property's condition, value, or functionality beyond ordinary use.  

Sometimes, property damage is negligent, but not all damage falls into that category.  

A tenant may mount a large TV on the wall with permission but struggle to remove it when it's time to pack up and move out. Accidental damage can occur when the mount separates from the wall, damaging the paint and sheetrock.  

Examples of Property Damage

  • Large stains or burn marks on the carpet

  • Broken tiles or hardwood floor damages due to negligence or lack of protection

  • Holes or large dents in the walls

  • Broken windows or damaged window frames

  • Unapproved or poorly executed paint jobs

A common issue for self-managing landlords is discovering property damage at the end of a lease once the tenant has moved out. At that point, little can be done other than deducting from their security deposit. 

If the cost to repair the damages is more than the security deposit, a landlord can go after the tenant in court and obtain a judgment, but collecting on it is another issue that is often extremely difficult. 

One way to avoid late discovery of damages is to regularly maintain the rental, conduct periodic inspections, and ensure that you've kept good records of the condition at each step of the way. 

How to Maintain Your Rental Unit

Maintaining a rental unit involves a blend of proactive and responsive strategies to ensure it remains in good condition throughout the tenancy and beyond.

Perform Routine Maintenance

  • Regularly inspect the property for any signs of wear or damage.

  • Schedule professional maintenance for essential systems like HVAC, plumbing, and electrical.

Perform Walkthrough Inspections

  • Conduct thorough walkthrough inspections before and after a tenant's occupancy. In some cases, you may want to schedule a periodic inspection 3-4 months before the end of the lease to check for damages before the lease ends.

  • Document the property's condition comprehensively, using photographs, timestamps, and detailed notes.

Create a Tenant Damage Charge List

  • Develop a comprehensive list outlining potential charges for various types of tenant-caused damages.

  • Ensure this list is communicated clearly to tenants at the lease signing.

Normal Wear and Tear in Rentals FAQs

Navigating the landscape of normal wear and tear in rentals is often accompanied by numerous questions and uncertainties. Here are some frequently asked questions to guide landlords in managing wear and tear vs. damage issues effectively.

Can a Landlord Charge for Normal Wear and Tear?

No, landlords cannot withhold security deposits or charge tenants for repairs or replacements attributed to ordinary wear and tear.

How Much Can You Charge a Tenant for Damages?

Landlords can charge tenants for damages that exceed normal wear and tear. The charge should be reasonable, reflecting the actual cost of repairing or replacing the damaged item.

Are Nail Holes Normal Wear and Tear?

Minor nail holes caused by hanging pictures or curtains are generally considered normal wear and tear. However, excessive holes or damages due to larger installations may be considered tenant-caused damage.

The Wrap-up - Is it wear and tear or damage?

Understanding the difference between normal wear and tear and property damage is critical for charging tenants appropriately, avoiding disputes, and staying within legal bounds as a landlord. Use the bullet points above as a guide, and refer to your lease for specifics on damages and prohibited issues (like mounting flat-screen TVs without written permission.)

By following best practices in maintenance, performing thorough inspections, and clearly communicating expectations with tenants, San Antonio landlords can confidently manage their rental properties and navigate any potential wear and tear vs. damage issues that may arise. 

Remember, when in doubt, always consult with a professional attorney for guidance on legal matters related to landlord-tenant relationships. We handle tenant turnovers, security deposit itemization, and, in general, all the headaches tenants cause for landlords. If you're ready to make your real estate investment a passive investment, we should schedule a time to talk. Don't hesitate to reach out to discuss management, or if you need a legal referral for a pending issue - we'd be happy to help. 

Sm Maropis

PMI Profit Realty