Whether you’re a budding property manager, landlord, or a tenant, you may have wondered what consists of “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 short but detailed 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. Consequently, 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 by 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 tenants 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 obviously does not consist of normal wear and tear. Open communication is definitely critical in these situations.
Avoiding Issues Regarding Normal Wear and Tear
As a landlord, if you’ve spent time working on the interior design of 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 depreciation in the condition of the rental home. You, as the property manager, need to make it very clear to your tenants from the start what your standards are. If possible, be very specific about what you consider as normal wear and tear.
Tips to Protect Both Landlord and Tenant
For both landlords 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 accurately track how old each item is. For example, when you install a new oven, keep the receipt. Not only is this wise for your tax records; you’ll also have reasonable evidence of damage beyond normal wear and tear if it is overly beaten up within a year.
Set standards in place from the beginning for your tenants so they’re aware of what needs to be taken care of while they’re renting your property. 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 upon move out, always be sure to note exactly what the damage was, including its relevant cost.