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What Exactly is “Normal Wear and Tear”?

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Landlords and tenants often have disagreements on what they perceive to be “normal wear and tear.” 

Where exactly should you draw the line?

From our experience, the debate often comes down to responsibilities. 

It’s understood that tenants need to pay for the damages they cause to their rental property. Among other things, this can be from negligence or irresponsible behavior. 

However, the normal aging of household items isn’t considered to be tenant-caused damage, it’s called “normal wear and tear.”

Keep on reading to get an overview on how to recognize the signs of normal wear and tear and how to differentiate it from tenant-caused damage in your Boise property.

What Should You Consider to Be “Normal Wear and Tear”?

Many definitions exist for this concept. They come from a variety of sources like laws, regulations, and guidelines. Regardless of the source, expected aging from regular everyday use is a typical explanation.

When the tenant is careless or negligent, the resulting damage isn’t normal wear and tear. They’ll be responsible for taking care of the costs.

Landlords, on the other hand, should maintain the property in a way that protects it from damage that stems from aging.

What Counts as Normal Wear and Tear?

The following are examples of what’s considered to be normal wear and tear vs damage:

Bathroom wear and tear

Bathroom tiles that are dull or loose. Dark aging spots on the mirror. Bathtub, sink, and toilet enamel surfaces with light scratches and general wear. When worn pipes contribute to draining clogs. Rusty shower rod.

Bathroom damage

Heavily cracked and chipped or completely missing tiles. Shower rod bent or missing. Bathtub, sink, and toilet enamel surfaces are broken. Clogged drains resulting from negligence, not aging pipes. Bathroom mirror damage that clearly results from the use of personal products instead of general aging.

Carpet wear and tear

Fading from sunlight exposure and foot traffic. Worn thin in some spots.

Carpet damage

Burns and holes in the carpet. Pet urine and food stains.

Hardwood floors wear and tear

Some darker patches that have lost their finish. Fading due to sunlight exposure.

Hardwood floors damage

Water stains on floors that have accumulated from negligence. For example, the windows might have often been left open during heavy rain. Deep scratches. Some parts of the hardwood are completely missing.

Paint wear and tear

Fading due to sunlight exposure. Minor scratches or other irregularities resulting from normal daily activities.

Paint damage

Unauthorized paint jobs. Scribbles and heavy scratching. For example, deep or wide scratches made by pets. Even if pets are welcome on the property, tenants are still responsible for any damage done by their pets.

What Does “Useful Life” Mean?

The useful life of something is a term often used in the context of wear and tear. All products come with a specified life expectancy. Landlords can’t charge their tenants full expenses unless it was a brand new product.

For example, water heaters have a life expectancy of approximately 10 years. If a tenant moves in after 6 years and breaks the heater, then the landlord could only charge 40% of the heater’s replacement cost. The Department of Housing and Urban Development lists the life expectancy of various products.

When Is the Landlord Responsible for Any Damage?

Not all damages are the landlord’s responsibility. Every landlord needs to maintain their rental unit. That includes repairs and following the building codes.

Does the damage result from the failure to properly maintain the property

If so, the repairs can’t be paid using the tenant’s security deposit. For example, if an unaddressed foundation settlement starts to cause cracks in the drywall, it’s the landlord’s responsibility because they chose not to deal with it when they first noticed it.

What Is the Role of Inspections?

Conducting walk-through inspections is a way to minimize the risk of deposit disputes. When moving in, the landlord should walk through the property to take pictures and videos. This would help to ensure that the rental unit’s condition can’t be disputed.

For extra assurance, you could point out the existing damage in the rental unit. The rental agreement needs to acknowledge that both sides agree on the unit’s current condition.

Is it time for the tenant to move out?

Similarly to when they move-in, you should conduct a move-out inspection to determine if there are any damages to the property that weren’t there when the tenant moved in.

Pictures from the move-in inspection are valuable. It’s much easier for the landlord to make deductions from the tenant’s security deposit for the damages they caused.

The Bottom Line: What Is “Normal Wear and Tear”?

Normal wear and tear results from the daily use of household items in your Boise property. Damages that can be deductible from the security deposit are from negligence or irresponsible actions.

Not all damages in the rental unit are the tenant’s responsibility. Say, the damage results from the landlord’s failure to properly maintain the unit, then you can’t make deductions from their deposit. It’s the responsibility of the landlord to repair or upgrade it.

The claims surrounding property damage versus normal wear and tear frequently result in disputes. One of the preemptive measures is to take photos and record videos during the move-in and move-out inspections. This way, both sides can defend themselves from false claims.