Landlords and tenants will sometimes find themselves in disputes over who has to pay for repairs to a space. This can happen to both residential and commercial tenants. The landlord may contest that the tenant damaged the space and should have to repair it, while the tenant will claim that the landlord is responsible for those costs.
Oftentimes, what the tenant will say is that the damage to the property is just normal wear and tear. But what does this actually mean?
The problem with “normal wear and tear “is that it generally just refers to the expected deterioration in a space. Anywhere that people live or work, that space is going to be damaged in minor ways. Carpet will wear down with foot traffic, for instance. A baseboard may get scuffs and scratches. Floorboards may become loose over time. These are all relatively unavoidable issues that would happen to anyone.
On the other hand, unexpected property damage goes beyond what you would anticipate from someone simply living in the space. They have done something – perhaps on accident or by being negligent – to cause an excessive amount of damage. Scratches on a windowsill may count as normal wear and tear, for instance, but a broken window probably will not.
With that said, even this doesn’t define the concept in a way that is always satisfactory. What type of damage should someone realistically expect? Are these expectations ever defined by either the landlord or the tenant? It may be important to consider exactly how the damage occurred to determine who was responsible. Was the tenant acting in a negligent manner at the time, or were they simply living their life when the damage happened for reasons largely outside of their control?
Working through this process
Needless to say, landlords and tenants are not always going to agree on who caused damage or who is responsible for the costs. A significant dispute can arise, especially if the damage is extensive and will be very costly to fix. In a situation like this, it’s important for all involved to know exactly what legal options they have and to seek legal guidance whenever necessary.