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The law allows landlords to deduct portions of the security deposit to cover the cost of damages caused by a tenant. However, landlords cannot deduct to repair normal wear and tear, or the normal depreciation of a property. It’s hard to determine what is considered normal wear and tear vs damage, but wise landlords soon learn the difference to avoid tenant disputes while receiving fair compensation for actual damages.
What is Wear and Tear?
All rental properties are going to suffer some deterioration, even with the best of tenants. Wear and tear is the inevitable decline of a property’s overall condition due to time and usage.
List of normal wear and tear examples for renters:
- Scuff marks or worn patches on linoleum
- Wear patterns on carpet
- Carpet seams unglued or unravel
- Warping of doors and windows
- Wall dents from door handles
- Broken strings on blinds or curtains to t
- Cracked light switch plates
- Cracks in walls or ceiling from settling
- Sun-faded or heat blistered blinds or doors
- Wobbly toilet
These and similar conditions should never be deducted from the tenant’s security deposit because they represent common wear and tear issues. Instead, landlords should plan on covering these costs involved in refurbishing the rental unit for the next tenant.
What is Considered Normal Wear and Tear vs Damage?
In this episode of “Attorney Advice” we have on attorney Don Krupens who is a landlord attorney in California. He shares his thoughts on refunding security deposits.
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What is Damage?
Damage to a rental property occurs as a result of unreasonable use, abuse or accidents. This can also include intentional alterations that the tenant made without approval. Even if the damage wasn’t made by the tenant, but rather one of their guests, the tenant is still responsible for the cost of repairs.
Here are 10 examples of damage to rental property:
- Holes or tears in linoleum
- Burns or oil stains on carpet
- Pet urine stains on walls and carpet
- Holes in walls not from doorknobs
- Torn or missing curtains
- Broken window or missing screens
- Water marks from overflowed sink or bathtub
- Cuts or burns on countertops
- Unauthorized painting
- Broken toilet seat, tank or handle
While the specifics differ state to state, in general, a landlord must include a list of deductions along with any refunded portion of the security deposit. If the landlord has done a thorough move-in and move-out inspection with the tenant, there should be few surprises on either side.
Security Deposit Disputes
Unfortunately, disputes often arise when a tenant defines a deduction as wear and tear while a landlord considered it damage. A tenant may have a strong case if he or she can show that a landlord took a deduction for damages on something that is actually normal wear and tear.
As long as the landlord can give reasons for a reasonable interpretation of the differences between basic and normal wear and tear versus accidental or intentional damages, and outline the damages to the tenant during the move-out inspection, disputes can be minimized.