What’s Considered ‘Normal Wear and Tear’ in a Rental?

Deal Score+65
Deal Score+65

One question on every renter’s mind on move-out day (besides “How do I get this couch to the front door?”) , and that is the security deposit. Will you ever see that money again?

According to most leases, your only hope is to return your apartment in the same condition as when you took possession, beyond “normal wear and tear.” Still, though, this raises the question: What exactly is normal wear and tear, and what crosses the line?

Read on to learn just what you need to fix, and what you can let slide.

What qualifies as ‘normal wear and tear’

Unfortunately, when it comes to determining wear and tear, there is no specific list of defects that a landlord will find acceptable to leave behind. It helps to think in terms of things you encounter in your own home every day.

“Have you ever nailed a nail to a wall to hang a picture, or scuffed a wall while carrying groceries?” Trent Zuckerman, chief operating officer of Renters Warehouse, which manages residential real estate, asks. (Of course you have!)” These kinds of things happen.”

Normal wear and tear is light damage that occurs over time and doesn’t affect the use of the home or appliances; it’s just unsightly. Other examples of normal wear and tear are light scratches on wood floors, worn spots (but not stains) on carpets, and loose railings or handrails.

What tenants must fix

According to Gary Malin, president of Citi Habitats, these are some of the most common things that renters will be responsible for repairing.

  • Excessively scratched or gouged floors
  • Broken windows or torn screens
  • Broken or nonworking appliances
  • Pet stains and odors
  • Custom wall coverings such as paint or wallpaper
  • Any installations like shelving, light fixtures, or window treatments

The importance of a move-in checklist

All landlords or property managers will have different expectations, so it’s important to discuss the condition they want you to keep your apartment in on the day you move in. Scratches and discoloration should be documented, so get out your smartphone or camera, take pictures of any defects you see, and make sure your landlord is aware of them so he knows they are not caused by you.

Ideally, your landlord should provide a checklist of the condition of the property at move-in. But if not, Kimberly Smith of AvenueWest, which manages corporate housing, recommends creating your own checklist (you can download a sample rental property checklist online). Ask your landlord to sign the document to make it official, include photos of defects, and if you want to be extra careful, search online and try to find out the life expectancy of various items. One big issue is carpet.

“Carpet is a good example of a facility that many tenants and landlords dispute,” Smith explains.” To determine what to expect in terms of carpet cleanliness, start with total life expectancy.” Experts estimate that in a two- to four-person household, the life expectancy of a carpet is typically around three to five years. Therefore, if a tenant rents a newly carpeted place for five years and needs to replace the carpet when he moves out, then this is considered normal wear and tear.

In other words, make yourself at home like you would and don’t sweat the small scuffs.

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