Defining Normal “Wear & Tear”

Last modified on August 2nd, 2013

As a property manager, figuring out what exactly wear and tear constitutes is a constant battle. Every case can be slightly different.

When dealing with people living in a property you manage, there will always be some wear and tear on items within the unit. However, not everyone has the same definition of wear and tear, and lines will have to be drawn in order to get you and your tenants on the same page. So, while we discuss what wear and tear is, the best way to make sure there’s no grey area is to have an open dialogue with your tenants to make sure they understand what things are considered damages and what are not.

The importance of open dialogue and communication with your tenants cannot be overstated. Always make sure to have your tenants fill out a form listing the quality of items in the unit, so that there is a written record in case it needs to be referenced. Another good practice is to keep records of the items in each property so that each item’s age can be tracked. In that way, if newly installed wooden cupboards look overly-deteriorated within a year, for example, you’ll have proof to present to your tenants during your discussions or negotiations.

If tenants know what will be considered damages right from the start, they’ll be less likely to complain if some deductions are taken out of their security deposit to replace the things that were damaged. It’s important to list the reasons that money was taken out and the purpose those funds then served. Tenants will be much less hostile if you carefully spell things out regarding the use of their money. And remember, in discussing wear and tear with tenants, always be courteous and avoid sounding accusatory.

So what exactly signifies wear and tear, you ask? Well, according to it is when there is “unavoidable deterioration in the dwelling and its fixtures resulting from normal use.” This can range from a carpet wearing down to paint chipping away from the walls. Both of those examples come about from normal use of the apartment and not from aggressive tenants. Damages on the other hand usually involve some kind of human intent from holes in the wall to curtains being torn and ripped at the end of their stay. Our advice is to stay vigilant and to keep consistent, organized records of everything. Be sure to work with your tenants, not against them.


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