What is Considered Normal Wear at a Rental Property?

July 12, 2022

The lease ended and your tenants have moved out. The property doesn’t look the same as when your tenants moved in so they should be charged, right? Not quite. 

Tenants are responsible for damage due to negligence, misuse, or abuse but not normal wear and tear. Normal wear and tear is what is expected to happen at a property over time that happens without negligence, misuse, and abuse. Tenants cannot prevent things in your property from wearing down due to age and shouldn’t be expected to so if something needs to be repaired or replaced at the end of a lease, you cannot assume it’s the tenant’s fault and expense.

State and local regulations should be checked first since they vary but here are loose guidelines about what you should and should not charge your tenants for when they move:

Carpet:

Normal wear and tear: Shoe markings in main traffic areas and light stains.

Damage: Pet urine and stains. Large holes or burns.

Walls:

Normal wear and tear: Minor marking, small scuffs, and small nail holes for hanging photos (on average no more than two per wall, are considered normal wear and tear.

Damage: Large nail holes, gouges, and large scuffs and scrapes can be charged to the tenant potentially. Also, if the tenant paints walls without permission, then there can be a charge to paint or prime the areas.

Cleaning:

Should not be charged to the tenant: They miss cleaning one drawer in the kitchen.

Should be charged: If the tenant leaves without cleaning anything then most leases and laws allow for the tenant to be charged. I’m some areas, landlords charge a cleaning fee so if you’re already doing that then they should not be charged again since the cleaning fee should be applied to cleaning.

Missing/switched appliances and fixtures:

If tenants switch appliances and fixtures out or remove them altogether then they can be charged.

How much can you charge the tenants if there is damage when they move?

Everything in the home has an expected or estimated useful life, which is an estimation of how long an item should last before it needs to be replaced due to age. If the estimated useful life has expired, then the tenants cannot necessarily be charged for something since it’s something that the landlord should be replacing anyway at that point due to its age.

If the estimated useful life has not expired, then the tenants should be charged a prorated amount based on the remaining estimated useful life for the damage they caused.

For example, if carpet is expected to last five years but needs to be replaced because the tenants damaged it, then the landlord should charge two-fifths of the cost of the new carpet to the security deposit since there were estimated to be two remaining years left that the landlord could’ve gotten use from the carpet but didn’t due to the tenants’ misuse or abuse.

Most importantly, document the condition of everything in the home before the tenants take possession. Many people only photograph existing damage when they do a move-in walkthrough but it’s helpful to have photos of what the property looked like before there was damage should something happen.