One of the questions we are most often asked is how to determine normal wear and tear from tenant damage at a rental property.
The exciting part of this question’s answer is that no one really knows what is normal. Everyone has a different definition. We’re going to try to make sense of this today so you have a more balanced understanding of the wear and tear you’re responsible for as a landlord, and what would qualify as damage, and thus becomes the responsibility of the tenant.
Legislative Definition of Wear and Tear
Legislatively, normal wear and tear is described as any damages caused to your property or any item in your property while it’s being used for its intended purposes.
So, if you are walking back and forth on the floor and there are wear marks or there’s some wear on the carpet from where you’ve been walking, it is generally going to be considered legitimate wear and tear. This can often feel like a moving target, but to be honest, we deal with hundreds of security deposit dispositions per year and every one of them is unique and difficult.
Consider an Item’s Age
You also have to factor in the age of the item when you’re evaluating wear and tear and trying to determine if there’s damage. For example, if a tenant is using a door for all of its intended purposes and the door breaks or is broken, do you charge the tenant for it? A door is designed to keep outside elements from coming in, and if that is what it did and it was damaged, who is at fault? This is a tough question, especially if there’s no evidence that the tenants misused, abused, or neglected the door. You have to decide how to handle the responsibility for that door’s repair or replacement. It’s a tough question, and we deal with that every day.
If the item has exceeded its maximum life expectancy, it may not be worth anything anyway. In that case, the tenant would not be responsible for paying to replace something that would have needed replacing anyway. For example, if your door was 20 years old and it stopped working during a tenancy, that tenant isn’t required to buy you a brand new door with double insulation. The requirement would be that the tenant replace it with a 20-year-old door. You cannot hold your tenant financially responsible for replacing it with anything but something that was similar to what was there.
This is a very difficult topic; and it’s one of the reasons it makes sense to hire a Colorado Springs property manager. Put that in our court because frankly, it is just experience and time that will give you the answers on what is normal wear and tear and what you can charge and what you cannot charge.
If we can help you with these questions, please contact us at Muldoon Associates.