What is Normal Wear and Tear?

Whether you’re a budding property manager or a tenant, you may have wondered what is normal wear and tear? Steven R. Kellman, a real estate attorney and consultant writer for The Washington Post’s Rentals Section addresses this very question in a 2004 Q and A. Though no blog can be taken as legal advice, the laws on this haven’t changed much since then. He states that the primary factor is going to be reasonable time frames that will be particular to the item in question. For instance, a plush white carpet may show “normal” signs of wear and tear much faster than say a tighter, darker carpet and so, they will differ in what would be considered “normal wear and tear”.

The very best way that both landlords and tenants can address this is being perfectly clear from the start. For property managers, it’s important to be realistic about what will be considered normal wear and tear. This is especially true if you know you’ll be renting to those with children or pets. For tenants, that’s understanding that regular signs of foot traffic and the like will be normal. However, allowing your beloved pooch to use the carpet for a toilet or a chew toy, not so much. Open communication is definitely critical in these situations.

How to avoid questions of what is normal wear and tear.

As a landlord, if you’ve spent time working on your interior design for your property, you should be aware of the materials you use. You should choose more durable options that don’t show stains and other problems as readily. As you go about the business of property management, you should also understand that there’s going to be some normal wear and tear. You, as the property manager, need to make it very clear to your tenants from the start what your standards for that are.

Tips to protect both property managers and tenants

For both property managers and tenants, it is a good idea to take note of the condition of the unit upon move in. For tenants, taking photographs of any issues is a good idea, so they are documented from the start. For instance, if there is a stain on the carpet, take a photo, note it, and let the property manager know before you move in. This is also a good idea for management because it keeps things clear from the beginning. Keeping accurate records of the items in your units is also beneficial, because then you can track the age accurately. For example: when you install a new oven, keep the receipt. Not only is this wise for your tax records, but also, if it is overly damaged within a year, you have reasonable evidence of damage beyond normal wear and tear.

Having set standards in place from the beginning that your tenants are aware of is important. Not only will this encourage them to be more mindful, it also validates deductions from the security deposit if needed. When you do take those deductions on move out, always be sure to note exactly what was damaged and the cost.

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Kurt Kroeck

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By Kurt Kroeck

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