Stephen A. Martin, Attorney at Law
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Regular wear and tear or serious damage? When to act against a tenant

It’s reasonable to expect there to be signs of normal wear and tear when a tenant moves out of a rental property. There are just certain parts of a property that wear down.

However, not all damage is minor or normal. In some cases, tenants may try to hide major issues and leave without paying for their own negligence. As a landlord, it is important to know the difference between normal wear and tear and damage.

What could be considered damage?

Your tenants should be expected to generally leave the property in the condition they found it. However, there are minor issues such as small holes in the wall for hanging pictures, minor fraying of curtain or light cords, and faded carpet or paint that are minor and considered normal use.

However, even excessive small issues could be considered damage. For example, if there are an unreasonable number of holes in the wall for hanging pictures or the holes are too big. Or perhaps the carpet is not just faded, but stained. Certainly, more egregious damage, such as broken appliances, plumbing damage, large holes in the wall or torn carpet would go beyond normal wear and tear.

Lay out terms in the lease

You’ll want to lay out the terms for damage in the lease. It’s important to note that you have a responsibility to provide a safe environment and complete necessary repairs in a timely manner, but you also have a right to hold your tenant responsible for damage.

A lease with clear terms means everybody knows their responsibility and the consequences for damage.

Security deposits

Security or damage deposits can help protect you from paying for a tenant’s negligence. However, the money does technically belong to the tenant. If you use the security deposit to pay for repairs or cleaning, you must provide an explanation.

A security or damage deposit helps protect you, but you can’t use it as a failsafe for all damage issues.

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