What Exactly is "Normal Wear and Tear"?

Everything deteriorates over time, including real estate properties.

Rental property depreciation is normal, and it is neither the fault of the landlord nor the tenant. In contrast, property damage is often a result of tenant abuse or neglect. Knowing the difference between "normal wear and tear" and "property damage" is crucial - especially when it comes to returning a tenant's security deposit.

That's why, in this post, we got you covered! We are outlining everything you need to know about normal wear and tear!

Defining Normal Wear and Tear

When a property is frequently used, it will naturally decline in value. This is considered "normal wear and tear." While your rental is occupied or as tenants come and go, you can expect some damages to happen as a natural result of residing in the unit. This isn't a case that can be attributed to abuse and neglect.

Here are some examples of normal wear and tear:

  • Tiny carpet stains
  • Faded carpet or faded hardwood floor from constant sunlight exposure
  • Loose door handles
  • Scrapes on wooden floors
  • Dirty appearance of grout
  • Slight tarnish on bathroom fixtures
  • Chipped paint

Defining Property Damage

Property damage does not occur in a natural way. Property damage is intentionally done through tenant abuse or negligence. It can mean that the rental property has lost its value and may even interrupt the normal functioning or usefulness of an object.


Here are some examples of property damage:

  • A broken or shattered bathroom mirror
  • A large hole in the wall
  • Cabinet doors off its hinges
  • Carpet with urine stains
  • Clogged toilet resulting from improper use
  • Severely damaged windows

Importance of Understanding Normal Wear and Tear

As a rental property owner, you'll often encounter the term "wear and tear."

It's important to be able to understand the difference between normal wear and tear and damage. Knowing how to differentiate the two will help to minimize future conflicts.

The main reason why understanding the difference is important is because you may deduct from a tenant's security deposit for property damage, but you cannot deduct from a security deposit for normal wear and tear.

If you lack proper knowledge on the difference between damages occurring from normal wear and tear or damages outside of it, then you can expect financial disputes. A tenant may contest the deductions on the security deposit, especially if there is no record of violations committed by the tenant.

If you want to be clear on security deposit deductions and avoid the stress of conflict with a tenant, take time to understand what constitutes normal wear and tear.


Significance of Walk-Through Inspections

A helpful process to reduce security deposit conflicts is practicing a walk-through inspection. This process requires both you and the tenant to evaluate the condition of the rental home prior to the move in.

You can walk through the rental with the tenant and document the state of the property. We recommend that you have an organized checklist when walking through the property, and that you take photos and videos of the unit.

At the end of the inspection, both parties must sign the document as acknowledgement that they see eye to eye on the present condition of the rental.

Then, when the lease expires, perform a second walk-through inspection. Both parties can once again evaluate the condition of the property. Take more photos and videos of the unit. Finally, compare the final condition of the property with its initial condition.

The pictures and videos will be great proof if there are damages.

The great thing about a final walk-through is that you can help your tenant understand why deductions will be made from the security deposit. You can discuss the present condition of the property and compare it to the prior walk-through inspection.

This should help avoid disagreements and issues.

Property Maintenance

As a landlord, property maintenance is one of your biggest responsibilities. You're expected to conduct the repairs, schedule cleaning sessions, adhere to safety and health codes and provide basic utilities.


However, if damage is your fault, you will have to cover the costs of repair.

For example, say there was a flood that caused water damage. If the reason for the flood is because you didn't fix a small leak in the roof, then that's your fault! So, you'd have to cover the costs. The tenant's security deposit must be left untouched in this situation.

Remember, you're responsible for responding to tenant repair requests, as well as conducting preventive inspections which can help catch minor issues early.

Bottom Line

As a landlord, if you want to avoid dealing with potential disputes regarding the security deposit, understanding "normal wear and team" vs "damage" is crucial.

If you want to retain long-term tenants, exercise fairness and assign the repair costs accordingly, learn to differentiate severe property damage from normal wear and tear.

For more information or help, please contact Limestone County Properties.

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They have always been professional, courteous, and quick to respond to my questions. I have known Chantel for many years. She is not only professional but she has helped me whenever I needed her to.I have tried other property managements, and although they were not bad they just dont measure up to limestone property management. I would and have recommended them.

Janice Vargas