What Is Normal Wear and Tear?


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If you’ve ever looked at a lease document for a new apartment or taken a virtual tour of your rental unit with your landlord, you’ve probably heard of the term “normal wear and tear”. But what does it mean and, most importantly, what does it mean to you?

Here, we cover everything you need to know about wear and tear and how it could affect your security deposit.

What is normal wear and tear?

First, let’s start with the basics – what is wear and tear? The term “wear and tear” refers to the deterioration or normal deterioration of the condition of a rental property that you would expect to see just because someone lives there. This includes changes in the condition of the property which are a normal consequence of daily life, but not damage due to accidents or neglect.

The following are examples of normal wear and tear on a rental property:

  • Gentle wear and tear of carpets or floor coverings by people walking on them
  • Small holes in the wall due to hanging frames or scratches on the paint
  • Fading of curtains or rugs due to sun exposure
  • Door handles loose
  • The finish on handles or bathroom accessories is starting to wear out
  • Distorted cabinet doors in the kitchen or bathroom
  • Dirt or dust that can be cleaned with a vacuum cleaner or regular dusting

What is considered damage?

Normal wear and tear on an apartment is different from damage. Damage to rental accommodation is the result of accidents, negligence or intentional. It is not only the kind of deterioration associated with everyday life, but it is the level of damage that could decrease the value of an apartment or the enjoyment of the property by the next tenant.

Examples of damage are:

  • Large holes or stains in carpets
  • A broken mirror or device
  • Removal of devices
  • Chipped or broken tile or porcelain
  • Drawings on the walls
  • Mold or mildew left in kitchens or bathrooms
  • Unapproved paint colors on walls or poor paint jobs

Other factors to keep in mind

When distinguishing between what constitutes normal wear and tear on an apartment and damage, there are a few other factors to keep in mind:

  • The duration of the lease: The longer a tenant occupies a place, the more natural damage you can expect from daily living conditions. A tenant who has been in a rental unit for 20 years, for example, is naturally going to suffer more wear and tear than someone who has lived in a rental unit for six months. If the carpet was in good condition when the tenant moved in, it would be reasonable for a landlord to expect to replace it after the 20-year tenant moved out, but not after the month-to-month tenant.
  • The character and age of the building: Older buildings are prone to deteriorate in condition more quickly, especially when they have not been recently updated. For example, it would be more normal for a bathroom floor tile to break in an older building due to wear and tear than it would be in a new or just remodeled building.
  • Extent of damage: The same type of damage could be considered normal wear and tear or damage depending on its amount. For example, a small stain on a carpet is generally considered wear and tear, but a massive stain, due to urine from an animal or a spilled drink, would likely be considered damage.

Why is the definition of wear important?

If you are a renter, understanding the difference between normal wear and tear on a rental property and damage will be an important part of getting back most or all of your security deposit when you move out. This is because a landlord keeps your security deposit as a kind of damage insurance (or unpaid rent or utility bills).

Your landlord is responsible for normal repairs and maintenance, including normal wear and tear, but may withdraw money from your security deposit to pay for repairs resulting from damage. So in order to get your security deposit back after you move out, you will want to make sure that you do not leave any damage in the unit and that any deterioration in the condition of the apartment while you live there is due to normal wear and tear. . .

Recovery of your security deposit

In addition to avoiding damage, there are a few steps you can take to ensure that you get most or all of your security deposit back.

When you move into a new location, see if your landlord is ready to show up. Together you can take note of any existing damage using a checklist and taking pictures of any damage with your phone. Make another visit just before you move to confirm that you left no mess. Ideally, you and your landlord will both sign a checklist or document outlining the existing damage so that everything is in writing and you can be sure that you have an agreement on where the potential damage already exists before proceeding. ‘move in. This will put ease on your mind when waiting for your security deposit refund letter because you will know what to expect.

Documenting existing damage means you have proof that you are not responsible if your landlord wants to deduct your security deposit when you move out. If you and your landlord agree on what constitutes normal wear and tear before you move out, you won’t have to worry about being charged.

Understanding what constitutes normal wear and tear versus damage to your rental unit and having a common understanding with your landlord early on will help you get most or all of your security deposit back when you move out. Are you looking for a new place? Search thousands of apartments for rent on Zumper and move.

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