Normal wear and tear in a rental unit refers to reasonable, everyday use leading to the gradual deterioration of the space. This happens without any negligence, carelessness or abuse coming from the tenant. This is the type of minor everyday damage that should be expected when someone lives in a space for a significant amount of time.
It’s important to differentiate between actual damage that a tenant has caused negligently or intentionally and the normal wear and tear that is bound to take place. Tenants are generally not responsible for normal wear and tear, while they can be held accountable for damages beyond that. A landlord can take money for extensive damages out of a tenant’s security deposit.
Why might a conflict occur?
Concerns about damage can sometimes lead to conflicts because tenants and landlords disagree about what the tenant is liable for and what actually counts as damage. Examples of normal wear and tear in a rental apartment may include:
- Faded or worn-out paint or wallpaper due to aging or sunlight exposure.
- Minor scuff marks on walls or floors from regular use.
- Lightly worn carpets or flooring, especially when considering in high-traffic areas.
- Loose door handles from regular opening and closing.
- Loose or misaligned hinges.
- Fading or discoloration of fixtures or surfaces over time.
- Minor wall damage, like small nail or screw holes left after hanging decorations and pictures – if done responsibly.
However, damages beyond what is considered normal wear and tear – such as torn wallpaper, shattered windows, major holes in the walls, noticeable stains or burns on the carpet, excessive damage from pets or neglect that results in significant damage – are generally the responsibility of the tenant to repair or cover the cost.
When a tenant moves out, landlords typically go through a careful inspection to see if there is any damage or other such issues. This is when the security deposit may be an issue, as it can be used to cover some repair costs – if they go beyond normal wear and tear.
As such, it’s advisable for tenants to document the condition of the unit when they move in and when they move out to support any claims regarding the condition of the rental property. If a dispute does occur over a security deposit or other such issues, those involved need to be well aware of their legal options. Seeking legal guidance is a good way to gain this valuable clarity.