When a Tenant Moves Out: What Counts as Normal Wear and Tear

When a Tenant Moves Out: What Counts as Normal Wear and Tear

When a Tenant Moves Out:
What Counts as Normal Wear and Tear

When a tenant moves in, it’s a good idea to keep a move-in checklist to document the unit’s condition. As you walk through the unit with your new tenants, take photos or video of any damages. This can help to minimize disputes when the tenant moves out. Otherwise, it can be difficult to assess the property for damage and determine repair costs and responsibilities.

While renters are not responsible for everyday wear and tear on the property, it’s important to clarify what is considered normal wear and tear. It’s often unclear, especially since state and local regulations vary considerably. Ultimately, it is up to you as the landlord to determine what is normal wear and tear and what the renter is responsible to pay.

These guidelines can help you to determine whether damages to your rental property were the result of everyday wear and tear.

Carpet stains:

Carpets have a limited lifetime, especially if they are a light color. Normal wear and tear for rental properties includes light stains in the main living areas and hallways. This is expected over time.

Many landlords include a requirement in the lease stating that the tenants must have carpets professionally cleaned at their own expense after moving out. This helps to eliminate disputes over minor dirt and stains. If the carpets are heavily damaged after a tenant moves out, you may need to withhold the cost for repairs or replacement from their security deposit. Heavy damage might include:

  • Pet stains
  • Food and beverage stains
  • New carpet that is heavily stained at the end of a one-year lease

Scuffed walls:

Minor marks and scuffs can be easily touched up or cleaned, but anything that alters the condition of the walls could be considered damage beyond normal wear and tear, such as:

  • Large nail holes
  • Gouges
  • Scrapes

You might be able to specify in the lease agreement that tenants cannot insert screws or nails in the walls. However, some local and state regulations require landlords, at their own expense, to paint interior walls after a set number of years, regardless of the condition, so be sure to check the requirements in your area.

Cracked tiles and broken hardware:

It can be difficult to determine damage to tiles and hardware items. A factor to consider is whether they were old or new when the tenant moved in.

If bathroom tiles showed signs of wear and age before your current tenant moved in, the cracking could be natural, so charging the tenant for age-related damage would be dishonest. But if many tiles have cracked during the lease term or newly installed tiles are damaged, the tenant is responsible for the damages. The same applies to doorknobs, hardware and appliances.

Damage from pets:

When renting to tenants with pets, most landlords include a pet agreement consisting of weight and size restrictions and pet rent.

Some states prohibit nonrefundable pet fees, so check local regulations before finalizing your lease agreement.

The following are not considered normal wear and tear for a rental property and can be deducted from the security deposit:

  • Pet stains
  • Dug-up yards
  • Claw or chew marks on any surfaces, including exterior surfaces the pet can access

Dirt, dust and grime:

It is reasonable to request that tenants clean the unit before moving out. Notify them of what is expected so they have time to clean and make necessary repairs before the inspection.

You can charge a cleaning fee if the property is left with the following:

  • Dirty bathrooms
  • Filthy countertops and appliances
  • Expired food in the refrigerator
  • Garbage left behind inside

The bottom line is to know the unit’s condition before a tenant moves in. Use a move-in checklist and take photos or videos of the unit to document any damages during the move-in walk-through. Use the same checklist when the tenant moves out to assess any damages and repairs that need to be made.