What Exactly is "Normal Wear and Tear"?

As a Virginia landlord, it’s important to be ready and prepared for any scenario that may occur. After a tenancy expires, you may find that your rental property isn’t in the same condition it was before.

There are two types of "damage" that can happen to your property during a tenancy: The first one is normal wear and tear, and the second type is excessive damage.

Additionally, landlords could deal with pet damages caused by the tenants pets. But that should be covered seperately in the lease agreement should you work with a pet owning tenant.

What is Normal Wear and Tear?

wear and tear paint

Defining normal wear and tear isn’t straightforward. Generally speaking, however, normal wear and tear refers to the expected deterioration of a unit caused by everyday use.

Consequently, you cannot use your tenant’s security deposit to fix damage resulting from normal wear and tear. In such a case, you must return your tenant’s security deposit – so long as there isn’t any other type of financial liability you’ve suffered because of them, like if they broke their lease and moved out without paying their due rent.

The following are examples of damage that constitute normal wear and tear in a rental property:

• Improperly functioning doors due to high humidity levels;
• Slightly warped cabinet doors;
• Scuffing on wooden floors as a result of regular use;
• Fading of the carpet, or thinning from walking over it;
• Mold issues resulting from improper ventilation;
• Bathroom tiles having loose grouting;
• Scratched or worn enamel in toilets, sinks, or bathtubs;
• Faded wallpaper or paint.

As a landlord, you are responsible for the cost of fixing such wear and tear.

What is Excessive Property Damage?

Property damage, on the other hand, is damage exceeding normal wear and tear. Your tenant will be solely liable for fixing the damage. If the tenant moves out without fixing the damage, you can use part or all of their security deposit to repair the damages.

The following are examples of damage exceeding normal wear and tear:

• Large holes in the wall;
• Unauthorized paint colors or an unprofessional paint job;
• Burns, stains, or holes in carpet;
• Damaged appliances resulting from neglect or abuse;
• Cracked or missing bathroom tiles;
• Broken windows or doors as a result of misuse;
• Water stains on windowsills or wood floors;
• Gouged or chipped wood floors.

What Falls Under Routine Maintenance After A Tenant Moves Out?

Once the tenancy expires and the tenant vacates the unit, there are a couple of things that you must do to get the property ready to rent again. These tasks fall under routine maintenance. The following are some examples of these.

1. Replacing Lightbulbs

general routine maintenance

Your rental property should have working light bulbs before a tenant moves in. However, it's your tenant’s responsibility to fix them if they burn out during tenancy. Most leases require tenants to leave their units as they found them, which would mean your tenant must ensure they leave the light bulbs in proper working condition when moving out.

However, the responsibility to replace light bulbs can become your responsibility in the case that the lightbulb is designed to last for years of continuous use. Long, fluorescent tube bulbs are a good example. Your tenant may not have the expertise to replace them, and may end up causing damage in attempting to do so.

2. Repainting the Walls

There are two types of landlords in this regard: There are those who allow their tenants to paint, and there are those that are against it. If you allow your tenant to paint their walls, you probably have a policy on that.

In the paint policy, you may require a tenant to follow certain requirements, such as asking permission first, only allowing certain colors, and using professional painting services.

In such a case, you may hold your tenant accountable if they violate your lease or rental agreement.

If you're totally against painting your unit and mention such in your lease, then you may be able to deduct appropriate costs from the tenant’s deposit if they repaint it.

Please note that repainting may fall under routine maintenance if your tenant has lived in the unit for at least 3 years.

3. Cleaning or Replacing the Carpet

Do you prefer to steam clean the carpet in between tenants? If so, you can’t require your tenant to foot that bill. However, if your tenant has stained it to the point that it cannot be reused, then you may be able to charge them the cost of replacing it.

4. Cleaning the Unit.

If you're like most landlords, chances are you prefer to get professional cleaners in between tenancies. In such a case, you cannot charge your prior tenant for the cost of cleaning the unit.

There is an exception, though, which is in case the tenant left the unit in a dire state of uncleanliness.

cleaning rental between tenants

To avoid issues, be sure to have a clause in your lease agreement stating that they must clean the unit prior to moving out. Even better, provide them with a cleaning guide detailing your expectations.

How Long Can you Expect Common Items to Last?

All good things must come to an end, right? The features in your rental property aren’t an exception. Manufacturers determine their products’ life expectancy, and as a landlord, you obviously can't hold your tenant liable for features that have outlived their useful life.

The following is a list of various items and their life expectancy as per the HUD.

Tiles or Linoleum: 5 years
Window Blinds, Screens, and Shades: 3 years
Interior Painting (Enamel): 5 years
Interior Paint (Flat): 3 years
Refrigerators: 10 years
Air Conditioning Unit: 10 years
Hot Water Heaters: 10 years

To sum up, damage resulting from normal wear and tear is the landlord’s responsibility. On the other hand, tenants are responsible for excessive damage. As a landlord, you can only make deductions to a tenant’s security deposit if they have caused damage exceeding normal wear and tear.

If you'd like help with finding and managing great tenants in Hampton Roads VA, get in touch with RentEasy! We're a team of property management experts ready to help you make the most of your investment property with top-quality services.

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